Family Law Focus: Parental Responsibility

21 September 2022
2 minutes
Family Law

Parental responsibility is the legal term that reflects the rights, duties, powers, and responsibilities of a parent to be involved in decision-making regarding their children.

In Northern Ireland, every mother automatically acquires parental responsibility for her child, as does every father who is married to the mother at the time of the birth.

Unmarried fathers fall outside this scope and can sometimes find themselves in a situation whereby a child is registered without their knowledge, and therefore they have no parental responsibility for them. This is unfortunate as, on many occasions, an unmarried father is not aware that he does not have these rights.

Parental Responsibility can be acquired in several ways:

  • Adding the father’s name to the child’s birth certificate
  • Both parents can enter a parental responsibility order
  • An application made to the Court for a parental responsibility order

Any parent with parental responsibility is entitled to be involved with decisions regarding a child’s schooling, healthcare and general upbringing. It is important that both parents share this responsibility and consult one another regarding a child’s upbringing, even if they are separated. If parents cannot agree on a particular decision, a Court may have to adjudicate on this based on the child’s best interest.

Other significant individuals can attain parental responsibility if required, such as Step-Parents, Guardians, Grandparents, and the local authority if a child is in care; this is done by way of Court proceedings. If an individual without parental responsibility wishes to issue proceedings in respect of their child, the Court will need to grant permission in the first instance.

For further information or assistance on the above, please contact myself or a member of the Family Law team at MKB Law.

This article is for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional legal advice.

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