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Parental Responsibility – clarifying the issues raised in Coronation Street

It has recently been screened on Coronation Street that the only way an unmarried father can get Parental Responsibility for their child is to marry the mother. This is not the true position of the law.

Parental Responsibility is loosely defined as the rights and obligations which go with having a child. When a father has Parental Responsibility he has the right to be consulted with in relation to matters concerning a child’s welfare, education and religion and the child should not be removed from the country without his consent.

The biological mother of a child will automatically acquire Parental Responsibility. In the event that the mother and father are married at the time of the child’s birth then the father will also automatically acquire Parental Responsibility.

If however the mother and father are not married at the time of the child’s birth the father will acquire Parental Responsibility if one of the following occur;

  • Where the father is registered on the child’s birth certificate and the birth is registered after 1 December 2003;
  • By subsequent marriage to the mother;
  • By entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the child’s mother;
  • By making an application to the Court and obtaining an Order for Parental Responsibility. When considering an application the Court will have in mind the father’s commitment to the child, his attachment to the child and the reason for making the application.

It is not therefore the case that the only way to obtain Parental Responsibility is to marry the mother. There are many parents who remain unmarried but choose to enter into Parental Responsibility Agreements. Alternatively, you can approach your local Registry Office to request the re-registration of the child’s birth where previously father’s name was omitted, enabling him to obtain Parental Responsibility automatically.

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