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What does ‘Parental Responsibility’ really mean?

One of Scott-Moncrieff’s specialist family lawyers, Seetal Missan, has helped many couples through every step of their divorce in as painless a way as possible.  Her experience has taught her that it is important to set out each parent’s rights early in the process so that everyone knows what is expected of them and what they can expect for themselves.

But, she warns, with rights, comes responsibility.

One of the dilemmas affecting separated couples is the issue of exactly what rights each parent has and what is fair and reasonable for each of them in terms of child arrangements.  Of course, every parent wants what is best for their child and they will work hard to make sure the child (or children) come through the divorce with the best care possible.

However, many separations are acrimonious and parents can find it almost impossible agree specific arrangements because they do not really understand what their ‘rights’ are in these circumstances.  They feel they don’t want to give away too much to their estranged partner, which can lead to an adversarial approach when deciding child access etc.

Some parents feel they have the right to arrange almost anything that suits them and they seek unreasonable or unfair arrangements.  By contrast, others don’t really assert themselves and feel their rights are ignored from the start.

On top of this, mothers and fathers can have different rights.

Rights = responsibility

For instance, every mother automatically has what is known as Parental Responsibility (PR) for their child but a father does not.  However, a father can have PR if the following factors apply:  

  1. the father was married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth;
  2. an unmarried father is named on the child/children’s birth certificate as the father. This only applies to children born after 1 December 2013;
  3. the father agrees a PR agreement with the mother ;
  4. the father is granted PR by the Court.

What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental Responsibility is a very serious and important status for a parent to have.  It means that the parents are responsible for taking care of their child/children and for maintaining and protecting them.

This gives the parent the right to make important decisions in their children’s lives such as which schools they attend, whether they should undergo medical treatment and having access to their child/children’s educational progress.

Parental Responsibility is for the benefit of the child and must not be used as a control mechanism, with one parent holding their PR status over the head of another parent.

Some parents often feel that Parental Responsibility can be used to force their former partner to agree to child arrangements on their terms, which may be unfair to the non-PR partner or simply unreasonable.  Of course, this can lead to an even worse breakdown in the relationship and can have a direct impact on the parents’ contact with each other and with their child.

In such situations, it is important to seek legal advice to ensure that any welfare concerns which a parent may have are addressed.  If appropriate, proposals can be made for contact to take place on set days and times and at set places.

This establishes a routine for children and allows parents to be able to follow this and avoid disagreements.

It also means that both parents or guardians are comfortable that their rights are being respected.

Contact our Family Law Solicitors in London

If you need any more information or would like to ask us to look at a case, please contact us today on 020 7841 1099.

CALL US 02078411099

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