While you might think that a child’s father should automatically have parental responsibility for them, this is not actually the case.
In our jurisdiction, a mother to a child born in England and Wales will always have parental responsibility for their child but this is not always the case for the father and he may need to acquire it following the child’s birth.
As the father, if you and your child’s mother were married or in a civil partnership when your child was born you will both automatically have parental responsibility for that child. However, if you were not, only your child’s mother will automatically have parental responsibility.
All is not lost though; there are several ways a father can acquire joint parental responsibility for their child including:-
- Marrying or entering into a civil partnership with your child’s mother following their birth (providing you are ‘domiciled’ in England and Wales at the time);
- If your child was born on or after 1 December 2003, being registered as your child’s father on their birth certificate;
- Entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with your child’s mother and filing this with the Central Family Court;
- Obtaining an Order from the Court granting you joint parental responsibility; or
- Being named in a Child Arrangements Order (an Order which specifies who a child should live with and who they should spend time with) as someone the child should live with or potentially even as someone the child should spend time with if the Court determine it would be appropriate to also make a Parental Responsibility Order in those circumstances.
Establishing whether you have joint parental responsibility with your child’s mother is important because as a parent with parental responsibility, you are entitled to be involved in and have your say when it comes to major decisions relating to your child such as, where they should attend school and medical treatment.
It is not always as entirely straightforward as indicated above as there are some qualifying factors for each of the potential options. It is also slightly more complicated for same-sex parents. Therefore, if you are in any way unsure as to whether you have parental responsibility for your child and may need to take steps to acquire it, we would recommend that you obtain legal advice. Contact one or our Family team here to see how our specialists can assist you.