Does a mother have more rights than a father?
What is parental responsibility?
Parental responsibility refers to all the legal rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority a parent has for a child and the child’s property.
Who has parental responsibility?
The biological mother of a child will automatically have parental responsibility (PR). The father has PR if he is married to the child’s mother or is named on the birth certificate. An unmarried father not named on the birth certificate can get PR by obtaining a PR order from court or by entering a PR agreement with the mother.
An unmarried father will also obtain PR if he is named as the resident parent under a Child Arrangements Order. A step-parent can obtain PR too, but this can only be done with a Parental Responsibility Agreement signed by both biological parents.
What are my rights if I have parental responsibility?
Parents with PR should maintain and protect their child. Having PR also means they are responsible for disciplining the child, choosing and providing for the child’s education, agreeing to the child’s medical treatment, naming the child and agreeing to any change of name and looking after the child’s property.
Parents with PR have the legal right to make important decisions.
These decisions include:
• Naming the child and changing their name
• Consent to medical treatment
• Choosing where the child goes to school
• Changing the child’s school
• Applying for passports
• Deciding religious upbringing
• Deciding where the child should live
• Taking a child abroad for a holiday
If both parents have PR, it is not necessary for both parents to agree on every day to day decision. If the decisions are significant, such as those listed above, then it is necessary for both parents to agree. Both parents should make important decisions together for their child.
If a child is the subject of court proceedings, the main consideration for the court is the child’s welfare and best interests. There is no legal presumption that a child should live with their mother. All parents must make sure their child is financially supported, regardless of whether they have PR.
What happens if both parents cannot agree on a major decision?
If parents with PR cannot agree on decisions, they can be supported to attend family mediation to try and resolve their differences.
If they are not able to reach agreement through mediation, the parents can make a private law application to court for a Specific Issue Order or a Prohibited Steps Order.
A Specific Issue Order can be applied for where one parent wishes to take a step and the other parent doesn’t agree, for example a vaccination or a change of school.
A Prohibited Steps Order can stop the one parent from taking a step which is not agreed by the other parent.
It is helpful for everyone involved (especially the child) if things can be resolved amicably and outside of court. A child is likely to be most content if both parents can communicate politely and they do not have to worry about any court proceedings.
An application to court should always be the last resort. The court will expect that both parents have exhausted all alternative options before an application is made. If either parent has not acted reasonably whilst alternative options were being explored, the court may not take too kindly to this.
Should court be a necessary step, both parents should view it as a way of restarting negotiations. Parents should remain open to discussions continuing alongside court proceedings with a view to reaching an agreement without the need for a final hearing.