Parental responsibility – Jade’s Law to bring major change
A parent convicted of killing a partner or ex-partner will automatically have their parental responsibility for any children vetoed on sentencing.
The change to the Victims and Prisoners Bill comes after a campaign by the family and friends of Jade Ward who was stabbed and strangled by her former partner, Russell Marsh, in 2021 while their young children lay sleeping upstairs.
Although sentenced to serve at least 25 years in prison, Marsh has repeatedly bombarded Jade’s parents, who are looking after her four sons, with requests for photographs, school reports and medical details and insisted on having a say in decisions about their lives.
The Ministry of Justice says the change will stop convicted killers being able to manipulate their children from behind bars and will be brought before parliament by the end of the year.
Why did the law on parental responsibility need changing?
Currently, there is no provision for parental responsibility to be removed automatically when one parent murders the other.
It is possible to apply to have parental responsibility removed or restricted but this requires a formal application and detailed consideration of the facts on a case-by-case basis in court.
This not only takes time but is harrowing and stressful for bereaved families.
How will Jade’s Law affect parental responsibility?
Jade’s law means parental responsibility will be automatically stripped from anyone convicted of the murder or voluntary manslaughter of a person with whom they share parental responsibility.
This would then by rapidly reviewed by a judge to make sure it’s in the best interests of the child or children.
There will be an automatic exemption from Jade’s Law in place when a domestic abuse victim kills their partner meaning their parental rights will be preserved.
What is parental responsibility?
Parental responsibility is all the duties and obligations you have towards a child as a parent.
It covers everything from food, shelter, safety and financial provision as well as education – like where the child goes to school, religion, discipline, medical treatment and the name by which the child should be known and where they should live.
Who has parental responsibility?
A child’s biological mother automatically has parental responsibility as does a father married to the mother at the time of the birth or afterwards.
Unmarried fathers also have parental responsibility if they are named on the birth certificate (after 1 December 2003) and also if:
- A Child Arrangement Order names them as the residential parent.
- A court order has granted them parental responsibility.
- They have entered into a ‘parental responsibility agreement’ with the mother.
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Highly experienced on all issues relating to parental responsibility, please contact any member of the Family Law Team for help or information.
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