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  • Unmarried Fathers and Parental Responsibility

    Unmarried Fathers and Parental Responsibility

    A little known fact is that unmarried fathers do not automatically have Parental Responsibility – the rights, duties, powers and responsibility a parent has by law in relation to their children. This means that an unmarried father without Parental Responsibility cannot, for example, make decisions with regard to medical treatment or education.

    However, there are four methods by which an unmarried father can obtain Parental Responsibility. He can ensure that he is named on the birth certificate, which is the easiest method but has a short window in which it can be done. He can be named in a Child Arrangements Order as someone with whom the child is to live, which requires an application to the Court and a fee of £232, alongside potentially several hearings. He can enter into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother, which must be prepared in a specified manner and filed with the Central Family Court in London. Finally, he can apply for an Order for Parental Responsibility, much the same as an application for a Child Arrangements Order.

    The last resort, especially when the child’s birth has already been registered and the mother does not agree, is applying for a Child Arrangements Order. There are other consequences of this. Once the Order is in place, no one can remove the child from the UK or change their surname without permission from everyone with Parental Responsibility (or an application to the Court). However, this is qualified in that either person can remove the child from the UK for a period of less than one month.

    When considering making one of these Orders, the Court will consider, first and foremost, the welfare of the child. They will consider factors such as the child’s wishes, their needs, the effect of any change, and their individual characteristics. Each case is, of course, considered on its own merits.

    There are different factors that the Court will consider in the case of a Parental Responsibility Order – commitment of the father to the child, the attachment the child has to their father, and the motivation behind the application.

    As tempting as it can be to seek justice, a day in Court, or a chance to have your say, it is important to always prioritise the wellbeing and safety of the child above everything else. For example, rather than saying that he misses then child and would like them to live with him for 50% of the time, it is better to say that he thinks it is best for the child to spend 50% of their time living with their father. Rather than saying he would like Parental Responsibility, it is best to say it is best for the child if both of their parents were able to make decisions.

    If you or someone you know would like to speak further regarding acquiring Parental Responsibility and the process to be followed, we offer an initial free half hour consultation, and would be delighted to talk things through with you.



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    Julie McDonald Family Law is the trading name of JM Family Law Limited. JM Family Law Limited is a limited company registered in England and Wales [registered number 12606147].
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