For anyone who saw this Sunday’s episode of Law and Order UK, I’m sure you’d agree that it was packed full of tension, emotion and suspense. The episode revolved around an apparent abduction of a young child as his mother enjoyed a morning out with him. Without spoiling the episode for those who have not yet seen it, all was not as it seemed…
The finger was initially pointed at dad who was separated from mum. Fortunately for him, he had a water-tight alibi and the focus soon shifted. Bubbling under the surface were tensions between the parents. All had apparently been going well, with dad seeing his son regularly. Suddenly, six months earlier visits were reduced to once per month at mum’s insistence, and only to take place in a public space. This had clearly caused dad much heartache and the overwhelming feeling was that he was helpless to fight it. “I have no rights to my kid”. Mum and dad had never married, and his name wasn’t on the birth certificate. His mother was also upset - “Grandparents don’t even have the right to see their grandchildren”.
On the face of it, he was of course right but his situation wasn’t as hopeless as portrayed.
A father automatically has Parental Responsibility (PR) for his child if he is married to the child’s mother, or even if unmarried he is named on the birth certificate as the child’s father. A father without Parental Responsibility can agree with the mother to share it or if she won’t agree apply to the Court for an order giving it to him. Legally father is then in the same position as mother with equal rights and responsibilities for their child.
Grandparents can also ask the Court to consider their position and it’s not dependent on father having PR.
For dads, Parental Responsibility means they have an equal say, joint responsibility, and what can’t be agree between the parents can be decided by the Court - from where the child lives to how often they see each other through to choice of schools and holidays. If unmarried obviously being named on the birth certificate is the easiest way to acquire PR but an application to the Court for most fathers will almost always be successful.