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Parental Responsibility Order
In the Children’s Act 1989, Parental Responsibility is defined as “All the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority, which by law a parent of a child has in relation to a child and his property.”
Parental responsibility gives you legal rights and responsibilities for your child. If it were not for this, you would not have the right to get involved in various decisions concerning your child. You are treated as the child’s legal parent, and you have equal responsibilities and have a legal say in certain decisions in their lives. These include deciding where they live, where they get to study, and religious and medical considerations.
In 1st December 2003, the law regarding parental responsibility changed, in order to give unmarried fathers an easier chance to gain equal parental responsibility with the child. In order to exercise parental responsibility, both parents must register the baby’s birth together.
Parental responsibility is assumed by parents until their child turns 18, unless ended by a Court Order. It is highly recommended that unmarried fathers get hold of parental responsibility for their child, so that he may have the same rights and responsibilities as the mother and married fathers do. While parental responsibility is already assumed for married and divorced parents, as well as unmarried mothers, it is not so with unmarried fathers.
So how does an unmarried father apply for parental responsibility? For starters, you have to register for the child’s birth together with the mother. You should also file a Parental Responsibility Agreement, which is an agreement between you and the mother, filed and witnessed with the Principal Registry.
If the mother refuses to sign the Parent Responsibility Agreement, you can then apply to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order (PRO). Though the Children’s Act 1989 does not indicate any criteria or requirements that will entitle the father to a Parental Responsibility Order, cases brought up over the years has developed a criteria for PRO applicants. The father has to show his degree of commitment to the child in various areas, such as financial support, pursuing contact with the child, keeping arrangements and agreements, presence at birth of the child, being registered as the child’s father in the birth certificate, and his involvement regarding the child’s education.
The father should also exhibit the attachment between him and the child, which could prove to be difficult, especially where young children are concerned. He should also stipulate his reasons for applying for a PRO, because some applications actually have no merit, and only serve to disrupt the application process. Some cases have also brought up the child’s loss of self-esteem due to not being in contact with his or her father.
Applicants need to obtain an application form, which is called a Form C1. After filling it out, you may be given a chance to argue your case through a written statement. The trickiest part of this form is the reason for your application. It is recommended that you give a simple, generic response, and avoid inserting personal details. Try to keep from writing too much, and make sure that the reasons you indicate is not open to misinterpretations, as it can jeopardize your case.
Should the court turn down your case, do not be discouraged, as these things do happen no matter the circumstances, even with the best legal representation, or a solid case. You may appeal your request. There is a great chance that your appeal will get approved. Most judges usually recognise the importance of having both sets of parents being involved with the upbringing of a child.