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Parental Responsibility and Parents’ Rights Discussed

By Principal Lawyer, Family Law

Parental responsibility gives a parent the right to be involved in decisions in their child's life, but it also refers to the responsibility that a parent has to ensure the welfare of their child. 

A child’s mother acquires parental responsibility automatically when a child is born as will her husband if they are married. An unmarried father of a child born after 1 December 2003 will have parental responsibility if he has been named on the birth certificate. If not, and for fathers of children born before that date, parental responsibility can be acquired with the agreement of the mother through a parental responsibility agreement. If the mother does not agree then an application can be made to the court.

If a parent has parental responsibility:

  • They can give consent to medical treatment for their child.
  • Their consent must be obtained if the other parent wishes to travel outside the jurisdiction.
  • Must be consulted in any change of the child’s name.

A parent with parental responsibility must also be consulted in respect of any major decisions in the child’s life such as what school they should attend.

Parental responsibility is not intended, however, to give a parent the right to interfere in the day to day parenting decisions of the other parent and this can cause conflict when parents separate.

Situations where this might arise include:

  • A child’s diet and weight.
  • Making decisions about how much pocket money they should receive.
  • Allowing them or not allowing them to go out or on trips with friends’ families.
  • Deciding whether they should be allowed to watch a film or play video games rated older than they are e.g. being 15 years old yet allowed to watch an 18 rated film.
  • Should you allow them a small glass of diluted alcohol with a meal at home for a special occasion when under the legal age by a few years, e.g. at age 14 or 16? 
  • If the opportunity arose, would you allow your child or children to appear on TV?
  • When it comes to social media, should you post photos of your child or children online?

In most cases, issues such as this can be resolved by discussion between parents.

Family Law Solicitor Vicki McLynn advises clients to try and find a compromise and recognise that parents bring different experiences to a child's life.

Parental Disagreements

If one parent, however, becomes concerned that the other parent's decisions are having an impact on the child's welfare then it may be necessary to review arrangements for that child's care. The court can make decisions on specific issues, such as whether a holiday is suitable. It can also review how a child's time is shared between the parents and whether, for example, a child should be staying overnight with a parent. Some of the issues set out above may be relevant for a court when considering these issues.

In such a circumstance, the court would be asked to consider what was in a child's best interests. The child's welfare (not the parents) would be the overriding concern.

In a previous blog, we discussed issues surrounding child obesity; to read more, click here.

If you have any concerns regarding decisions made for your child or children, the Family Law team at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK offer an initial consultation to answer your queries.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers offer specialist, clear and grounded advice to parents in matters relating to children. To speak with a Family Lawyer call freephone 0800 916 9055 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you.

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