What does Parental Responsibility mean?
Parental Responsibility is the blanket term which covers the rights, duties and responsibilities belonging to a parent. Parents with Parental Responsibility have a right to be involved in all major decisions affecting the child’s life such as which school they are to attend, what religious upbringing the child should have and what medical treatments a child should receive.
In a situation where the parents of a child are unmarried, only the mother is automatically granted Parental Responsibility. The father, in these situations, would only be granted Parental Responsibility if this right was given to him by agreement with the mother, by subsequently marrying the mother or by order of the Court.
There has more recently been an addition to this general rule, which provides unmarried fathers with Parental Responsibility if the father has been registered with the mother’s agreement on the Birth Certificate for any birth registered after the 1 st December 2003. It is not possible to register an unmarried father’s name on the child’s Birth Certificate without his consent or without him being present at the registration.
There should be consultation between parents who share Parental Responsibility on the more important issues as identified above but in practice the parent with whom the child resides will make the day to day decisions about bedtimes, diet and discipline without consulting the other parent with Parental Responsibility.
If an agreement is reached between the parents they can sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement which is then filed with the Court. If an agreement cannot be reached and an application is made to Court to obtain this right, the Court will consider, the commitment that the father has shown to the child, the strength of the attachment between the father and the child and the reasons behind the application being made.