Being a parent brings with it many joys and rewards, though most parents would agree that with these rewards comes a lifetime of responsibility.
It is the job of both parents of a child to ensure that this responsibility is taken seriously and exercised in the best interests of their children.
What is Parental Responsibility?
Parental Responsibility is a legal term which reflects the rights parents in Northern Ireland have to be involved in making decisions in the best interests of their children.
Parental Responsibility is defined in the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 as “all rights duties powers and responsibilities and authority which by law a parent has in relation to the child and his property”.
In practical terms what does Parental Responsibility mean?
In terms of education, for example, any parent with Parental Responsibility has the right to be involved in choosing their child’s school, to be notified of school events and to be sent copies of the child’s school reports. They may also provide consent with regards to what information is released about their child and having an input in regards to how their child is disciplined.
Parents with Parental Responsibility also have the right to give consent to medical treatment, to determine the child’s religion, to be involved in choosing their child’s name and to agree to any change of name.
In summary, Parental Responsibility provides you, as the child’s parent, with the right to make decisions in the following aspects of your child’s life:
- providing a home for your child
- protecting and maintaining your child
- how your child is disciplined
- choosing the school in which your child will be educate
- determining the religious upbringing of your child
- consenting to medical treatment of your child
- providing or allowing any confidential information about your child which is requested to be disclosed
Having Parental Responsibility also includes the following:
- naming your child and agreeing to any change of your child’s name;
- applying for a passport for your child;
- accompanying your child outside of the UK and agreeing to your child’s emigration
- being responsible for your child’s property, for instance if your child inherits property at an early age;
- appointing a guardian for your child
Do all mothers have Parental Responsibility?
In Northern Ireland, every mother automatically has Parental Responsibility for their child.
Do all fathers have Parental Responsibility?
Fathers in Northern Ireland are often not aware that they do not necessarily have automatic Parental Responsibility over their child.
A father who is married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth will have automatic Parental Responsibility, as will a father who adopts a child.
How can I acquire Parental Responsibility for my child?
If you are a father who falls outside the above categories, you can legally acquire Parental Responsibility after the birth of your child in a number of ways, for instance:
- If your child was born after 1st December 2003, you acquire Parental Responsibility if your name has been put on your child’s birth certificate.
- If you and the child’s mother enter a Parental Responsibility Agreement
- If the Court makes a Parental Responsibility Orderin your favour
If the Court makes an order for the child to reside with the father, he will obtain Parental Responsibility by virtue of that order.
A stepfather may also acquire Parental Responsibility by applying to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order.
What happens to Parental Responsibility if parents separate?
Both parents may continue to exercise Parental Responsibility following separation and are entitled to be involved in decisions about their children’s upbringing.
Sometimes parents with Parental Responsibility can disagree about how these rights are exercised. If they cannot resolve this disagreement, they may apply to the Court which will decide the issue on the basis of what it considers to be the child’s best interests.