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Understanding Parental Responsibility

Paternity Testing
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Parental responsibility

Do you have parental responsibility?

As we move through these modern times, more and more couples are deciding to have a baby out of wedlock. While this is perfectly acceptable in social standings, it becomes more of a legal matter for the father should the relationship dissolve and the child is forced to live with one parent or another.

In the past, this has always been the mother of the child, as it is she who is automatically granted Parental Responsibility upon the child’s birth.

If the mother is married to the father, he also has automatic Parental Responsibility and even if the mother and father were married once but have since divorced, the father is still granted automatic Parental Responsibility. If however, the couple has never been married, the father has been given no parental rights or responsibilities. Parental Responsibility is very important because without it, the parent has no say on the happenings within the child’s life including;

  • where they live
  • go to school
  • or any other major decisions that are made by parents.

Since September 2006 it is against the law to conduct a paternity test unless you have parental responsibility. 

In the past, if the baby was born before November 2003, in order to gain Parental Responsibility the father has had to register a document that has been signed by the mother granting Parental Responsibility, obtaining a court order that would require a hearing regarding the request for Parental Responsibility, or later marrying the mother of the child.

Now it is easy to gain this same parental right by:

  1. simply registering for the birth of the child together with the mother
  2. obtaining a Residence Order, which was once known as Custody
  3. or by getting a court order

Once Parental Responsibility has been applied for, both parties will appear in court and a judge will hear from all sides.

There are no specific criteria that a father must meet before he is granted a PRO. However, a judge will consider the situation, always keeping in mind the child’s best interests and will use their judgment as to whether or not the father should be granted a PRO. The judge will look at things such as:

  • how much financial support the father has provided since the baby’s birth;
  • how much contact the father and child have had since birth;
  • if the parent plays a role in the child’s education;
  • if the father’s name is on the birth certificate;
  • and whether or not the father was present when the child was born.
  • it is most likely that the judge will request a paternity test to be carried out.

If the Parental Responsibility Order is denied in court, an appeal can always be made and generally, the appeals are quite successful. A Paternity test will be very important in this case. However, there are steps that a father can take to ensure that that never happens and they begin with the application process. The application which is originally used to apply for a PRO is called the Form C1 and how this is filled out can play a big part in whether or not the father is granted a PRO. Many people write too much on their application but it’s advised that they keep it short and simple and leave their entire story for their statement. However, providing a valid reason for the request and being able to back it up is also extremely important.

The application will definitely ask for a reason and if the space qualifying the reason is left blank because it’s simply too small, this can give the impression that the parent doesn’t have one or doesn’t have one that they feel is valid. Putting negative things in the application could also hurt the case as the mother’s side could blow it out of proportion and could argue that this is one of the reasons why PRO should not be granted.

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