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What rights does the mother have over the father?

It is often a stressful and emotional time for parties when a relationship breaks down. This is even more so where there are children involved as there will sometimes be difficulties in agreeing arrangements for the children such as where and with whom the children will live and what contact the absent parent will have with the children.

Who makes the arrangements for the children will depend on who has parental responsibility (PR) for the child. All biological mothers and most fathers have legal rights and responsibilities as a parent.

How can a father acquire Parental Responsibility?

There are a number of ways in which a father acquires PR for his child. If the father’s name is on the child’s birth certificate, he will automatically acquire PR. Alternatively, if the father is or was married to the mother of his child at the time of birth, or subsequently marries the mother of his child, he will acquire PR. Even if the father is not married to the mother of his child, he will automatically acquire PR if the child was born after 1st December 2003. If none of the above apply, the father can make an application to Court for PR.

Who should make important decisions about the child that will likely affect them as they grow up?

The Children Act 1989 provides for everyone who has parental responsibility to be involved in the important decisions affecting their child as they grow up. This includes decisions regarding education, health and medical treatment, religion and where they will live. Where more than one parent has PR, they should try to reach an agreement between them about these issues. If an agreement cannot be reached, either parent can make an application to the Court for a decision to be made. In addition to deciding on the issue in dispute, the Court has the power to decide how people exercise their PR including, if necessary, limiting how PR is exercised.

Everyone with PR has a right to make or be involved in the important decisions in a child’s life. Where both parents have PR, no one parent has a greater right to have a say in decisions about their child. Similarly, no one parent with PR can override a decision made by the other parent with PR without a Court Order. The law, however, recognises that the exercise of PR has be realistic and therefore it is accepted that when a couple separate the person with whom the child lives will invariably be the one to make all the day-to-day decisions about the child and having PR does not give a non-resident parent the right to interfere in the day-to-day management of the child.

A mother and father, with PR, therefore have an equal amount of standing in Court and the Court do not differentiate between them based solely on whether they are the mother or father. Any decision made by the Court will take into account who has the day-to-day care of the children and what is in the child’s best interests.

If you would like further advice on your personal circumstances, Watson Thomas Solicitors offer a FREE initial consultation.  Please call us on 01252 622422 or visit https://www.watson-thomas.co.uk for further information on the full range of family law services we provide.