Today will see many schools promote national Dads4Daughters Day, a day designed to give Dads the opportunity to commit to achieving greater gender equality in the workplace.
Whilst this is highlighting the equality of women, does the law see fathers in the same light on birth of a child? The law confers Parental Responsibility on parents upon the birth of a child, but which parent? Mothers automatically acquire Parental Responsibility, but fathers are only given this at the time of birth if they are married to the mother or attend the registration of the child’s birth (since 1 December 2003).
What is Parental Responsibility?
Parental Responsibility can be described as all the rights and duties which a parent may have in relation to their child and the child’s property. Such parental responsibility usually ends at age eighteen years. The main points covered by Parental Responsibility are:
- religious upbringing,
- care arrangements,
- educational matters, such as which school your child is to attend; and
- any medical treatment.
Parental Responsibility can be held by two parents, without creating any difficulty as to how decisions are made. Parental Responsibility does not relate to day to day care for a child, and whilst each parent with it can act independently, there are certain decisions that must be notified to the other parent. These are such things as:
- School selection – to be made in consideration of child’s view and on advice of teachers
- Authorised absences
- Living arrangements during school holidays
- Medical and dental treatment beyond routine
- Cessation of prescribed medication
- Age appropriate video watching for over twelve and fifteen
- Consent to marriage
- Change of surname and relocation overseas.
A biological father can acquire parental responsibility by one of the following:
- Subsequent marriage to the mother
- Parental Responsibility agreement
- Court Order
Whilst these assist in giving Fathers an equal position to the Mother, they do require either co-operation and consent of the Mother, or outside intervention.
It is good to bear in mind that parental responsibility is separate from a Father’s obligations to financially provide for a child.
So why does the law treat fathers differently about their automatic right to have parental responsibility from birth? Is it now time to consider this, given the ongoing awareness of the need for equality in the workplace?
Here at Woodfines, we can offer specialist family advice safeguarding and protecting your interests when important decisions are to be made regarding your children. For further help or advice, please contact a member of our Family Law team on firstname.lastname@example.org