02 December 2016
An amendment to the law relating to parental responsibility has come into force today. It means unmarried fathers, who are registered as their child’s father (and therefore named on the birth certificate), will automatically acquire legal responsibility for making decisions about matters affecting their child’s welfare (parental responsibility).
At the moment, unmarried fathers must either enter into a parental responsibility agreement with their child’s mother or apply to the court for an order granting them with parental responsibility; they do not acquire parental responsibility simply by being registered as their child’s father (and therefore named on the birth certificate).
Married fathers who are registered as their child’s father, by contrast, are automatically granted parental responsibility.
However, the law will not apply retrospectively. For births registered before 2 December 2016, an unmarried father, even if he is registered as the child’s father, must still either enter into a parental responsibility agreement or apply to the Court for a parental responsibility order.
Parental responsibility gives certain rights, powers and authority in relation to a child as well as certain duties and responsibilities. These include, for example:
- where the child should live
- the child’s education
- significant movement of the child (i.e. to leave the country for a holiday/leaving the jurisdiction - emigrating/applying for a passport)
- the child's name (including changes to name by Deed Poll)
- protecting the child
- the child’s religious upbringing
- consent to the child’s medical treatment
- consent to freeing the child for adoption
- looking after the child’s property (e.g. inheritance)
Unmarried fathers who are not registered as the child’s father at the time of the child’s birth will not have parental responsibility for their child. They will need to acquire it by:
- entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the child’s mother
- applying to the Court for an order stating that he has parental responsibility, or
- requesting that the registrar re-registers the child’s birth so as to enter the father’s name as the child’s father, (by which he will acquire parental responsibility for his child). This option will involve the cooperation of the child’s mother in making the request to the registrar.
Link to more information about changes to the law