The law is particularly harsh on unmarried fathers when it comes to parental responsibility.
The mother automatically has parental responsibility. The father does not unless he was married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth or he has acquired it in any of the following ways:
(a) By lodging a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the court
(b) By being named as the father on the birth certificate after 1 December 2003.
(c) Applying to the court
Parental responsibility is described as “all the rights, duties, powers and responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”.
There is no exhaustive list of rights and responsibilities but is commonly taken to include:
- Care and control of the child when that child is with you
- Secular Education
- Religious Upbringing
- Medical Treatment
- Child’s Surname
- Removal out of the Jurisdiction
- Where the child lives
- Child Arrangement Order
- Specific Issue Orders
- Prohibited Steps Order
- Maintenance for Children
If there is a dispute the recommended course of action is to see whether it can be dealt with through mediation. As it is always better for children if parents are able to agree matters rather than court proceedings having to be issued.