In the popular ITV soap, Coronation Street, there is a somewhat disturbing story line for all unmarried fathers. The man in a relationship is a victim of Domestic Violence and is suffering from abuse at the hands of his partner. This story line has taken another turn in that the controlling girlfriend, who has recently given birth to the couples’ first child, registered the baby’s birth without the father knowing and without naming him as the father on the birth register and certificate.

All mothers and most fathers have legal rights and responsibilities as a parent, known as ‘Parental Responsibility’ (PR). In the storyline as the parties are not married, the mother’s actions are catastrophic for the father as he does not now automatically gain PR for the child that he otherwise would have legally acquired by being named on the birth register and certificate. As from the 1st December 2003 unmarried fathers of children whose birth is registered on or after this date, and who are named on the birth register and certificate, also have PR.

In the storyline the father can now only gain PR by doing one of the following:-

  • Entering into a PR agreement with the mother;
  • Marrying the mother;
  • Re-registering the child’s birth, ensuring that he is named as the father on the birth certificate;
  • Applying to the court for PR Order

The problem with the first 3 options listed above is that the mother must consent. If she does not consent there is only one option for the unnamed father………The Court.

Parental Responsibility Agreement

If the mother agrees that the father should have PR at Mackrell Turner Garrett we can draft an Agreement reflecting this which can be signed by both mother and father and lodged with the court. This Agreement will give PR to the father.

Marrying the mother

If the mother and father are married at the time the child is born or if they have jointly adopted a child, both will have PR and maintain it even if they later divorce. However, if they are not married at the time of the birth the father can acquire PR by marrying the mother anytime after the birth of the child.

Re-registering the child’s birth

As the child’s natural father he can apply to re-register your child’s birth in order to add his name to the Register and Birth Certificate where this has been omitted on first registration. The General Register Office has all the information needed, and the application forms are available to download at the following:
https://www.gov.uk/adding-fathers-name-birth-certificate

Apply to the Court for a PR Order

A father seeking to obtain PR for his children, where matters cannot be agreed with the mother, can apply to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order. The father will have to make an application and pay a court fee of £200 and this is something Mackrell Turner Garrett can assist with.

Why does a father need PR?

You may wonder why having PR is so important, as a father you may take the view that you are the child’s father and will care for them accordingly. You do not necessarily need PR for your daily role as dad and you and your partner will of course make everyday decisions about how your child is brought up. PR usually only becomes an issue upon the breakdown of the relationship. Having PR means that you will be consulted about the big decisions in your child’s life until the child is aged 18.

Having PR enables a father to do, among other things, any of the following:-

  • consent to medical treatment for a child;
  • apply for a passport for the child;
  • choose which school/nursery the child attends;
  • decide the child’s religious upbringing;
  • decide where the child will live

PR confirms, by law, the parent’s rights and responsibilities in relation to their children. If the child’s mother were to die, for example, a parent with PR would be he obvious person to care for that child. A father without PR could therefore find himself in difficulties.

If you require any assistance or advice in relation to PR please do contact one of the Family Team at Mackrell Turner Garrett.

Jennifer Herbert – Family Law Solicitor
Mackrell Turner Garrett
Tel: 0207 240 0521
Email: Jennifer.Herbert@Mackrell.com