There are many things to consider when welcoming a new baby into the world. For single or separated parents, this can include practical things like whether a child’s father must be included on the birth certificate, and what responsibilities and rights do they actually have for the baby.
This article explains what responsibilities and rights parents have in relation to their child, and what these mean in practice.
Parental Responsibilities and Rights (PRR’s)
Parental rights exist to enable parents to fulfil their parental responsibilities. These parental responsibilities and rights are:
- to safeguard and promote the child’s health, development and welfare; (with the associated parental right of having the child live with them or a say in where they are to live)
- to provide, in a manner appropriate to the stage of development of the child, (i) direction and (ii) guidance (with the associated parental right to “control, direct or guide” the child’s upbringing);
- if the child is not living with the parent to maintain personal relations and direct contact with the child on a regular basis, (this is also a parental right); and
- to act as the child’s legal representative (this is also a parental right).
Those with PRRs must have regard for each other’s views on any matter of major importance concerning their child. For example, deciding on or changing their child’s school or religion, or deciding on any significant medical procedures.
Who has PRRs?
If a child’s parents are married, they both automatically have PRRs, unless a court makes an order to remove them. If a child’s parents are unmarried, the mother automatically has PRRs. The child’s father does not.
In these circumstances, the child’s father only has PRRs if either:
- the birth was after May 2006, and he is named on the child’s birth certificate with both parents’ consent;
- the parents enter into a specific form of statutory agreement that he should have PRRs;
- a court orders that the father should have PRRs.
What happens if the child’s father is not named on the birth certificate?
If the parents are unmarried at the time of the child’s birth, the child’s mother can decide whether the father’s name is included on the birth certificate. If she does not agree to this the child’s father will need to apply to court for PRRs. The court will decide whether to give the father PRR’s based on the welfare of the child as the primary consideration and whether it is better for the child than not that such an order should be made. The focus for the court is the child’s best interests, not those of the parent.
Do you need PRRs to have contact with a child?
No, PRRs are not a prerequisite to having contact with a child. If the child’s parents can agree, fathers who are not named on the birth certificate or are otherwise without PRR’s can have contact with their child.
If parties cannot reach an agreement, the child’s father can ask the court to make an order for contact, without having any other PRRs. Such an application can also be made by anyone who “claims an interest ” in the child. This can include grandparents and siblings. The court will only grant the order if it is in the child’s best interests to do so.
If you are a mother who is concerned about including your child’s father on the birth certificate, or a father who is worried about not having PRRs and wish to discuss arrangements in respect of your children, please get in touch with our team.