Firstly, not all parents automatically have Parental Responsibility.   All mothers have this but for fathers it can be more problematic. Fathers acquire Parental Responsibility if they are married to the child’s mother at the time of child’s birth, or are named on the child’s Birth Certificate, if the child was born on or after 1st December 2003. Parental Responsibility can also be conferred by Court Order or an agreement approved by the Court.

When parents separate they each retain their parental rights. A departing parent who is no longer caring for the children may believe that they have lost their Parental Responsibility. However, this is just a myth. Parental Responsibility only can end on the making of a Court Order and not on the ending of a relationship or subsequent divorce. It does not end if you leave the country.

This misconception can lead to some parents believing that they can unilaterally make decisions without consulting their ex-partner. This can be a common problem within armed forces families. Parental Responsibility continues for both parents until the child reaches the age of 18, gets adopted, marries or the Court orders the removal of the same. It is exceptionally rare that a Court would ever consider removing Parental Responsibility and to do so there would need to be a significant reason.

This means any decision with regards to schooling, religion or medical treatment should be reached together. Similarly, both parents have a right to be able to access school records and medical information. This information cannot be restricted to a single parent.

For a parent to change a child’s name, they require permission from all of those who hold Parental Responsibility. However, when the child turns 16, parental permission is no longer required.

It should also be noted that if one parent intends to take a child abroad out of the jurisdiction of England or Wales, they must obtain the permission from the other parent. It is advisable to have this in writing.

If agreement cannot be reached on these matters, parents can apply to the Courts to make a decision on their behalf. Such applications are known as Specific Issue Orders. In dealing with such applications, the Court considers on balance what is in a child’s best interests.

In short, a parent who works away should not be excluded from the decision making process and has this right protected by the law for the benefit of the child.

If you need advice and assistance, please contact one of our offices listed below to arrange an appointment.

Aintree – 0151 526 9321                                            Formby – 01704872156

Heswall – 0151 342 6447                                           Huyton – 0151 489 6161

Kirkby – 0151 548 7370                                              Maghull – 0151 526 7131

West Kirby – 0151 625 9254                                      Woolton 0151 421 2400