When a child is born, mothers automatically become parentally responsible but a father only assumes such responsibility if:
• He is the mother’s husband
• The birth was registered on or after the December 1st 2003 and he was named on the child’s birth certificate with the mother’s consent
• He and the mother made a Parental Responsibility Agreement
• He is subject to a Court Order giving him Parental Responsibility
Once you are a responsible parent, your responsibilities to the child exist until they are 18 years old and major decisions regarding education, health and religious education should not be made without the input of both responsible parents.
This responsibility can only be taken away by a court which will generally only be done if the child is adopted or a parental responsibility order is removed. There have however been two cases where parental responsibility was simply taken away from a biological parent. The first was in 1995 when a father who had seriously injured his child resulting in a prison sentence saw his parental responsibility removed. It was deemed that he had surrendered responsibility with his actions and could never be awarded it again. Secondly, a man had his parental responsibility removed earlier this year after he sexually abused the step-sisters of his son. In this case, although the father and son were deemed to have a bond, this was deemed to be weakened by various factors: the father’s denials about the abuse, the lack of contact between father and son during his prison sentence and the son’s wish to continue avoiding contact with his father. The stress that would be placed on the son and his mother if contact continued was seen as sufficient grounds for removing parental responsibility by the court.
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Issues surrounding parental rights and responsibilities following divorce are complicated and emotive so it is important that you have a specialist family lawyer on your side to represent your interests.
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