Both parents automatically have parental responsibility for a child if they were married when the child was born.
This means that each of them is legally recognised as having all the rights and duties that parents normally have in relation to a child and that generally they both have to be consulted about major decisions in relation to the child’s upbringing such as in relation to education, medical treatment, religious upbringing and any change of the child’s name.
If the child’s parents were not married, only the mother automatically has parental responsibility unless the child was born after 1st January 2005 AND the father’s name was entered on the child’s birth certificate, in which case both parents share Parental Responsibility.
If the parents are unmarried the father still has parental responsibility if he is named on the child’s birth certificate.
If the parents are not married and the father is not named on the child’s birth certificate, the parents can voluntarily sign a parental responsibility agreement giving the father parental responsibility or, if the father cannot get the mother to agree this he can apply to Court for an order giving him Parental Responsibility.
Occasionally matters like this can get quite complicated where the mother denies the father’s paternity or there are doubts. Cases like that can often be resolved with DNA tests. The court can order a DNA test in circumstances where the mother refuses to voluntarily agree to the child being tested.
In our experience most disputes surrounding Parental Responsibility can be settled through negotiation and amicably. However; if that cannot be achieved we have a specialist team of solicitors who can ensure that the father’s rights as a parent are secured through the Court’s intervention.
When reaching decisions about Parental Responsibility and most other disputes between parents, the courts will always consider The Welfare Checklist.
If you need help in any matter relating to Parental Responsibility or your child’s welfare, contact us.