PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY Did you know that as a father of a child or children your rights in law in relation to your children are VERY different to your rights if you are married? In simple terms if you are not married to the mother of your children beware.....because you will not be treated as an equal parent in the eyes of the law, no matter how wrong or unjust that feels. So, for example, if your child was hurt in a car accident (heaven forbid) you cannot technically consent to emergency medical treatment for your child. Shocking? Read on....it gets worse. WHAT IS PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY In October 1991 the Children Act 1989 came into force. If you have friends who separated or divorced prior to October 1991 they may have custody, care and control or access orders in relation to their children. The Children Act did away with all of this; these orders are no longer made. Parents now have 'Parental Responsibility' for their children and this is defined as: '..all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent has in relation to a child and its property'. DO I HAVE PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY? a) If your Child's birth was born before the 1st December 2003 then only the child's mother will automatically have parental responsibility. The child's father (even if his name is on the birth certificate) will not automatically have parental responsibility. In such circumstances the father will acquire responsibility in any of the following circumstances:- 1) The parents are married or you subsequently marry the mother 2) The mother and father enter into a parental responsibility agreement (please note that formal documentation is required). 3) The Court makes a parental responsibility order. 4) The father applies successfully for 'residence' of the child. b) Where a child's birth is registered on or after the 1st December 2003 AND both parents have registered the birth of their baby together, the father will automatically gain parental responsibility. If the father did not register his name on the Birth Certificate then he will have to apply in the same way as above. c) Step parents may also acquire parental responsibility if: 1) Both parents, who have parental responsibility are in agreement and everyone (including the step parent) executes a parental responsibility agreement (please note that formal documentation is required) or; 2) By application to the Court for a parental responsibility Order. SO WHATâS THE BIG DEAL IF I DONT HAVE PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY? In theory at least, if you do not have parental responsibility you are not put in the shoes of the âfatherâ as you understand it. For example: a) (This happened to me), when you go to the Doctor to enquire about your childâs health some doctors will refuse to give you any information regarding your childâs medical position until you have proved that your do have Parental Responsibility. They are technically not supposed to give you that information unless you do have Parental Responsibility. b) If your child is harmed by someone and there is risk that your child will be placed on the Child Protection Register, you will not be notified of any case conferences which affect your childâs life. c) If your child needs emergency medical treatment and say the mother is unable to give it, because for example she was injured in the same car crash too, you cannot technically consent to emergency medical treatment. d) If your child is unfortunate enough to be considered for being placed into care, or fostered because the childâs mother is unable or unsuitable to cope with your child, then social services do not need to consult you nor will they definitely consider you as the first person the child should be placed with. The list goes on....... SAVE YOURSELF SKIP LOADS OF MONEY AND GRIEF LATER The bottom line is this: Parental Responsibility puts both parents of children on equal footing, if you donât have Parental Responsibility, arrange to get it sorted ASAP. When things are sweet between you and your partner, you can get Parental Responsibility for only a Â£100 or so. There is only one form to complete by both of you. If you ask for Parental Responsibility when your relationship breaks down, you may have to go to court for it, as mothers often misunderstand Parental Responsibility as giving you something more than they have, and that could cost thousands of pounds literally.