Fathers and Parental Responsibility

Fathers and Parental Responsibility; it would seem like this is a black and white issue, but the law clearly points to who has parental responsibility. The term parental responsibility is defined under section two of the Children Act 1989 and refers to “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” Unsurprisingly the mother will have this responsibility from the birth of the child. The law is slightly different for men though. A father only has parental responsibility if he is married to the mother when the child is born OR has obtained responsibility legal responsibility for the child. This is particularly relevant to those who are not married to the mother of the child. In England and Wales an unmarried father can only get legal responsibility by:
  • Jointly registering the birth of the child with the mother (from December 2003)
  • Getting a parental responsibility agreement from the mother
  • Getting a parental responsibility order from court
It is important to note that the law changed in December 2003. Those unmarried fathers who registered or re-registered their name on their child’s birth certificate AFTER 1st December 2003 WILL have Parental responsibility for the child. However those fathers affected prior to this date should be aware that:
  • If a child was registered before 1st December 2003 and they are not named on the birth certificate then the child can be re-registered to include their name. Upon completion they WILL have parental responsibility
  • If an unmarried father’s name is already on the birth certificate and the child was registered before 1st December 2003, the father WILL NOT have Parental Responsibility, unless it is obtained by getting the signed agreement of the mother OR it is granted legally in court.
When confirming a relationship between father and child it is often the case that DNA testing will be carried out. A paternity test will confirm the probability of paternity of up to 99.999999%. A point to note when considering this course of action is that since September 2006 it is has been against the law to conduct a paternity test unless you have parental responsibility. At AlphaBiolabs, we specialise in legal DNA paternity testing and have helped with paternity resolution in thousands of legal cases brought before UK courts every year. Our specialist team are on hand to answer any questions relating to this sensitive subject matter.

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