Parental Responsibility: why does it matter?
Parental Responsibility is a legal status and how the law recognises you as the legitimate father of your child, so it's worth making sure you've got it. Dad Info explains all...
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
Signing the birth certificate (and getting Parental Responsibility) is really important to your child - as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states:
"The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents."
Having Parental Responsibility is also important to you. It gives you the legal authority to make decisions about important aspects of your child’s life. These can include their name, school, religious upbringing and place of residence.
Fathers without Parental Responsibility can’t authorise medical treatment for their children (except in emergencies), see their medical records, manage any money they’ve inherited, or prevent their adoption or change of surname or removal abroad.
Of course, if everything's rosy between you and mum, you'll have a say in these things as a matter of course. But if things change in the future, having Parental Responsibility is the legal guarantee that you're at least allowed through the door of the court to discuss your child's future. Without it, you'll spend your time trying to get it.
IF YOU'RE SEPARATED
You will need to have Parental Responsibility in order for the court to recognise you as the child's father, and they'll have to do this before you can be involved in court decisions about their future, such as which school they go to, which country they live in, what their surname is etc.
Having Parental Responsibility does not, in itself, entitle a parent to live with or see their child; but a father who has it may be regarded more favourably by a court, if this issue comes to it.
Having Parental Responsibility doesn’t make you liable for paying child support: if you are recognised as the biological father, you will have to pay child support – whether or not you have Parental Responsibility.
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About the author
Clare Kirby qualified as a lawyer in 1983 and worked for several years in industry. She founded Kirby & Co in 1997. As a member of Resolution and an advanced member of the Law Society’s Family Law Panel she is experienced and respected in the field of family law. Trained as a collaborative lawyer, Clare offers clients a range of options - traditional, and collaborative law - to best meet the needs of the individual clients.