My ex and I split up in July last year and without telling me she has moved away and changed my 7 year old daughters school also without telling me. My daughter told me Saturday and is extremely upset. I am currently taking the first steps to gain shared access via legal proceedings we were not married but I am on the birth certificate am I allowed to contact the teachers via telephone at the new school and ask for emails to be sent to me regarding school plays and productions? What type of proof do I need that I am the father and am I breaking any laws?
Hopefully, the childrens legal centre will give a full answer, but if you are on the birth certificate, then you have parental rights, so you are able to contact the school to be kept up to date with her progress etc. Since there has currently been no court proceedings, the only document you have is the birth certificate and this should be sufficient.
A father will have parental responsibility if he was married to the mother of the children, has a parental responsibility order or an agreement, and if the father is on the birth certificate after December 2003.
If a parent has parental responsibility they can request the childâ€™s educational; record in writing under the Education (Pupil Information) (England) Regulation 2005, the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000. My advice would be to write to the school stating that you have parental responsibility and want the childâ€™s educational records, without providing any evidence.
If the school want evidence then they will request this from you, and it could include a copy of the childâ€™s birth certificate. Alternatively they may confirm this with the parental responsibility holder on their records.
If refused access then you should contact the information commissionerâ€™s office.
If you were placed on the birth certificate after December 2003 then you have something called parental responsibility. Parental responsibility is defined in Section 3(1) of the Children Act 1989 as being:
"All the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property".
The term parental responsibility attempts to focus on the parentâ€™s duties towards their child rather than the parentâ€™s rights over their child. In practical terms parental responsibility means the power to make important decisions in relation to a child - for example, decisions about where a child is to live, whether a child should receive medical treatment, what religion the child should follow and which school they should attend.
I'd like to ask a further question to the Childrens Legal Centre on parental responsibility, more out of interest. Where the parents are divorced or separated and in conflict, and there is a residence order in place, with both parents having parental responsibility, can the parent with care (PWC) disregard the non-resident parents (NRP) suggestions regarding schooling and other important decisions where the NRP may be acting simply to make life more difficult for the PWC, rather than in the best interests of the child?
Parental Responsibility does not cease on divorce or when one parent obtains a residence order. The court may want to limit a parentâ€™s parental responsibility by placing restrictions conditions within the order. They will do this if it is necessary in the childâ€™s best interest.
It should be noted however that when a parent obtains a residency order, because of practicality they will be able to make all the decisions in relation to the day to day caring of the child. However, with regards to major decisions such as what school a child should attend, all parental responsibility holders should be consulted and involved in the decision making process. If parents are unable to agree about a decision concerning the upbringing of their child, they could try family mediation.
The aim of mediation is to lessen conflict and to try to resolve disputes amicably. The process of mediation differs throughout the country, in some mediation services parents are seen separately and then they are bought together to see if they can reach a compromise. In other mediation services the parents are seen together, sometimes with their solicitor or a representative present.
If the decision is something that cannot be compromised then either parent can apply to the court for a specific issue order. The parent does not have to have parental responsibility to be able to do this. This order is effectively asking the court to make the decision on behalf of the parents, the decision will be based on what the court thinks is in the best interests of the child.