03 October 2011
Kirsten Grotte discusses current legal topic in Coronation Street - Parental Responsibility
During last week’s episodes in Coronation Street, an interesting legal topic has arisen in relation to parental responsibility and changing a child’s name.
Jack Dobbs is the centre of attention this week as Kevin Webster now wants to change his surname to Webster. In usual soap style this news obviously did not go down well with Tyrone Dobbs, who was originally led to believe by his late wife, Molly Dobbs, that he was Jack’s father. In actual fact it turned out that Kevin was the biological father and he has been the main carer for Jack since Molly’s death.
So can Kevin change Jack’s surname or does he need permission?
A child under the age of 16 can have their name changed as long as consent is given by all those who have parental responsibility for that child. Parental responsibility legally means having all rights, duties and obligations towards that child. This includes having a say in their religious upbringing, medical decisions and future education.
Molly, as Jack’s mother, automatically would have had parental responsibility for Jack; however she cannot give her consent as she unfortunately died in the tram crash storyline.
Tyrone was married to Molly so he would have had automatic parental responsibility, if he had been Jack’s biological father or if Molly had appointed him as a guardian. So technically, Kevin does not need Tyrone’s permission to change Jack’s surname from Dobbs to Webster.
Kevin, even though he is Jack’s biological father, does not have parental responsibility because he was never married to Molly and he is not on the birth certificate as Jack’s father. So in order to change Jack’s surname, the only option left is to seek a court order.
But could Tyrone object?? He could be classed as a step-parent and he clearly treated Jack as his own child when Molly was still alive, so he could apply to court to stop the change of name but he would firstly need the court’s permission to even make the application in the first place. So a few more hoops to jump through.
What would the court say with this application? They would always put the child’s welfare as their primary consideration and would only change the child’s surname if it would be in their best interest to.
It will be interesting to see what the outcome will be as would the court decide to keep Jack’s surname as Dobbs, as it is a link to his late mother? Or would they change it to Webster now that Kevin is the primary carer and it is best for father and son to be known by the same surname? Or would they suggest a compromise and give Jack a double barrelled surname of Dobbs-Webster?
Watch this space!