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When parents separate, issues often arise in relation to important decisions relating to the children and, more often, in relation to who the children should live and how much time they should spend with each parent. There is confusion as to what rights each parent has in relation to the children.
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Where there are no serious safeguarding concerns, the Court considers that a child has the right to spend quality time and have a meaningful relationship with each parent.
There is a common misconception that fathers have less rights in relation to their children as compared to mothers. Whilst this is untrue, it is correct that not all fathers automatically have ‘legal’ rights in relation to their children. This is referred to as ‘parental responsibility’ and, whether you have legal parental responsibility or not will depend on your circumstances.
Parental responsibility is defined as ‘…all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property.’ In other words, parental responsibility gives you the right to make important decisions about your child’s upbringing (i.e. their education, health and other day-to-day decisions).
Biological mothers automatically have parental responsibility. However, fathers will only automatically parental responsibility automatically in the following circumstances:-
If you do not automatically have parental responsibility, you can obtain parental responsibility by reaching an agreement with the mother or by obtaining an order of the Court in this respect.
It is important to note, when making an application to the Court for parental responsibility, the Courts main concern will be the safety and welfare of the children.
A father has the same right to have contact (‘spend time’) with their child as the mother. If there is a dispute about with whom the child should live and how much time they should spend with each parent, either parent can make an application to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order.
Anybody with parental responsibility can make an application for a Child Arrangements Order to the Court. Even if you do not have parental responsibility, you can still make an application to the Court, but your application will need to include ‘permission’ of the Court to make the Application as a person without parental responsibility.
At GloverPriest Solicitors, we represent mothers and fathers alike to in relation to children matters and to obtain Child Arrangements Order. In our experience, the Court will always endeavour to ensure that any final Order made in relation to children will allow them to spend quality time equally between their parents – as long as it is safe and in the child’s interests to do so – irrespective of whether you are the mother or the father.