Parental Responsibility

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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.

If you would like further information on Parental Responsibility, please feel free to email us here or leave your comments below

LIFE BITE: Kim and Kanye Surrogacy Success – An Overview of Surrogacy Law in NI

apple-150579_1280Earlier this week, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West welcomed the arrival of a baby girl via surrogate.  It is understood that the celebrity couple opted for the surrogacy route for their third child after Kim’s two high risk pregnancies with daughter North aged 4 years old and 1 year old son Saint.

Currently, surrogacy arrangements in Northern Ireland are relatively rare, however with couples increasingly opting to have children later in life, the options of both surrogacy and IVF are likely to become more commonplace within our society.

Here is a brief look at the legal implications of having a child via surrogacy…

What is Surrogacy?

Surrogacy is a method of assisted reproduction which provides the opportunity for a couple to have a child together in circumstances where the woman is unable to carry a child herself.    The couple (known as ‘the intended parents’) work with a woman who carries a child for them to term – known as a gestational surrogate.

There are two types of surrogacy:-

  1. Where the surrogate mother provides the egg which is fertilised with the intended father’s sperm.
  2. Full surrogacy where the egg and sperm are provided by the intended parents and the surrogate mother gestates the embryo.

Is Surrogacy legal?

Yes, surrogacy arrangements were legalised in the UK by the Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985. This sets out the circumstances in which surrogacy is legal.  An arrangement for surrogacy can be legally formalised in advance of the pregnancy. A Surrogacy Agreement can be entered into with the surrogate mother agreeing to bear the child for the couple and surrender the child to them following birth.

Who is the legal parent of a child born via surrogacy?  

When a child is born via surrogate, the legal parent of the child is the surrogate mother, regardless of whether the intended mother provided her egg for the purposes of surrogacy.  If the surrogate is married, her husband will be considered as the father of the child. This position will not change until altered by a Court.

For the intended parents to become the legal parents of the child and for the transfer of Parental Responsibility to them, an application must be made to the Court for a Parental Order. The Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985 makes provision for the intended parents to apply to the Courts for a Parental Order after the birth of child.

When such an Order is made, it terminates the rights of the surrogate mother and transfers Parental Responsibility to the intended parents. A Parental Order does not expire and the birth of the child is re-registered in the names of the parents.  A Parental Order can only be made if one or both parents are genetically related to the child. If neither of the intended parents are related to the child, then the intended parents must proceed by way of Adoption.

Are there legal risks to surrogacy?

A Surrogacy Arrangement is not without risks, such as the surrogate mother changing her mind and refusing to hand over the child following birth.  No one entering into these arrangements does so lightly and it is important that all steps are taken to try to secure and protect the Surrogacy Agreement made between the adults involved.

What legal steps should I take before proceedings with Surrogacy?

Once a surrogate mother is identified, it is important for the parents to enter into a legal agreement with her recording the intentions of the parties.  The agreement itself is not necessarily enforceable by the Court, but is an indication of the parties’ intentions which will be taken into account by the Court should a dispute arise.

The surrogate mother cannot be paid for entering the arrangement but she can receive reasonable expenses from the parents for agreeing to carry the child.  Later in the pregnancy, it is good practice for all parties can swear legal statements known as affidavits explaining the circumstances and confirming that they have entered into the arrangements willingly with knowledge of what is involved and agreed.

The affidavits can also set out the parties’ intentions as to when the child will be handed over after birth and that the father and surrogate mother will register the birth together with the father’s name on the birth certificate.

Within 6 months following birth, the parents should make an application to the Court for a Parental Order.  Certain circumstances must be satisfied for the Parental Order to be made:

  • The couple must be married, civil partners, or in an enduring family relationship.
  • The couple must both be over 18 years old.
  • The couple must be domiciled in the UK.
  • The Court must be satisfied that no money or other benefit, other than reasonable expenses, has been received by the surrogate.
  • The surrogate mother must freely and unconditionally consent to the making of the Order.

What if the Surrogate mother changes her mind?

If the surrogate mother refuses to hand the child over or give her consent to a Parental Order being made, or if there are concerns about her capacity to consent, the Court will examine the reasons in more detail.

Ultimately, the welfare of the child is the Court’s paramount consideration in Parental Order applications and as such, it must be shown that it is in the child’s best interest for the Parental Order to be made.

Should you require any further information on Surrogacy Law in NI, please feel free to contact us here.

LIFE BITE: Baby Charlie Gard’s parents lose Supreme Court appeal for US medical treatment

apple-150579_1280The Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal made by the parents of sick baby Charlie Gard, over plans to take him to the US for experimental medical treatment.

Charlie suffers from a rare genetic condition called mitochondrial depletion syndrome. His parents Chris Gard and Connie Yates, both from London, want to take their 10-month-old son to the US to undergo a therapy trial there.

Earlier this year, both the High Court and Court of Appeal ruled in favour of medical staff at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, who said it was kinder for brain damaged Charlie to be given end-of-life care and that he should not be taken to the US for experimental treatment, despite his parents’ wishes.

On 8th June 2017, the Supreme Court has also dismissed the couple’s latest challenge for their son to receive US medical treatment. Charlie’s parents have now made an emergency appeal to the European Court.

This case highlights the difficulties faced when parents and doctors are at loggerheads as to the best way to medically treat a minor child.  It raises the question –Who should have the ultimate say when it comes to deciding what is best for a child in terms of medical care?

If you are interested in where the law stands on this topic in Northern Ireland please click onto our blog post Medical Treatment and Your Children

Should you need any further information, please feel free to contact us confidentially by email

Parental Responsibility

parentBeing 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.

If you would like further information on Parental Responsibility, please feel free to email us here or leave your comments below

Having Contact with your Grandchildren

grandparentsToday marks the UK’s ‘National Grandparent’s Day

The bond between a grandparent and their grandchild is often regarded as one of the most precious relationships in life.

Grandparents are free of the stresses of parenting and can simply enjoy a fun and loving relationship with their grandchild.

Often this relationship can be of great benefit, not only to both grandparent and grandchild but also to busy parents who can have some valued time off from parenting.

But what happens to those grandparents for whom a relationship with their grandchild is impossible due to refusal by either or both parents to allow them to have contact time with their grandchildren? Often this can happen when the parents have separated and acrimony develops amongst the wider family.

I am not being allowed to see my grandchild – what can I do?

If you are a grandparent who is being refused contact with your grandchild, you can make an application to the Court for a Contact Order.

What is a Contact Order?

A Contact Order would allow you Court-ordered contact with your grandchild. This application would be made under the Children Order (NI) 1995.

What is the process for applying for a Contact Order?

At first instance, you must seek permission from the Court to bring an application for a Contact Order. Permission is normally sought at the same time as making the actual application and in all but exceptional circumstances this permission is granted. Once permission has been granted, the Court then considers in more general terms your application for contact.

Who would be involved in contact proceedings?

The Court then considers in more general terms the grandparent’s application for contact. Each parent would be a party in this application. They are entitled ask the Court to consider any objections which they may have in relation to contact.

What does the Court have to consider when making a Contact Order?

The Court would consider all the circumstances of the case and in particular the best interests of the grandchild involved. The Court may ask a Court appointed social worker, known as a Court Children’s Officer, to speak to your grandchild in order to establish what his/her views are in relation to having conatct with you. Your grandchild’s views will be taken into account however how much weight the Court places on their views will depend on their age and understanding – the Court is will consider the wishes and feelings of a 13 year old much more than they would of a 5 year old.

How much contact can I expect to get with my grandchild?

Whilst Courts are sympathetic to grandparent’s applications for contact and are aware of the importance of such a relationship, a grandparent would not generally expect as much contact as a parent who is living apart from his/her children.

In some exceptional circumstances a grandparent may apply for their grandchild to reside with them. This would generally be in cases where the parents are not providing adequate care for their child. In these cases, a grandparent could apply for a Residence Order. If a grandparent is awarded a Residence Order, they automatically acquire Parental Responsibility for the child for so long as the Order remains in place. this means that they can have a right to make decisions that are in their grandchild’s best interests.

It is of course of benefit to all concerned if contact arrangments can be agreed between parents and grandparents without having to go through the Courts. However, it is no doubt reassuring to many grandparents that they are able to exercise grandparent’s rights via the Court if they are being refused contact with their grandchild.

If you would like any further information on the issue of grandparent contact, please feel free to contact us directly here or on email at kconnolly@fhanna.co.uk or alternatively leave your comments confidentially below