Many people are under the misunderstanding that by becoming a step-parent to a child, either through a marriage or civil partnership with one of the child’s parents, they will automatically assume rights and responsibilities for the child – this is incorrect – as family lawyers Guildford we can help dispel any incorrect assumptions you have and lay a clear path for you as to your choices moving forward. We have many years of expertise in this field and are well placed to help you to achieve a successful outcome to your individual case. We can advise you on your rights and answer any questions you may have.
Before we can give any advice the first question will always be 'Who has parental responsibility for the child?'
What is Parental Responsibility?
Parental responsibility basically means the legal rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority a parent (or in some cases a local care authority) has for a child and the child’s property. A person with parental responsibility will have a duty to provide the home and to be responsible for feeding and taking care of the child, within a safe environment. They will also be financially responsible for the child, even if they do not live with them – the amounts they will contribute will vary from family to family. Anyone with parental responsibility for the child has the right to make decisions about their care and upbringing. If two or more people share parental responsibility, then any important decisions must be agreed by all of them. Important decisions will include things like, their name, where they will live, the religion they will be bought up within and any church/religious building they will worship at, consent to leave the country (either for a holiday or permanently) and also any medical decisions that need to be made. Without parental responsibility you will have no legal right to sign anything on behalf of the child. This includes simple things like permission to go on a school trip etc., but equally refers to big decisions such as medical care. In the event the child required urgent medical attention and where none of the parties with parental responsibility can be contacted – without parental responsibility you would be unable to make any decisions regarding the child’s care.
Who has parental Responsibility?
A birth mother will always automatically have parental responsibility. A biological father will have parental responsibility if they were either married to the child's mother at the time of the birth (or have subsequently married her), if he is named on the birth certificate (from 1st December 2003), or if he has a Parental Responsibility agreement or a court order which grants him parental responsibility. Also same sex partners who were civil partners at the time of the birth, or partners of mothers who are registered as the child's legal parent on the birth certificate will automatically have parental responsibility. If a child has a Legal Guardian appointed in the will of a parent with parental responsibility, they would assume full parental responsibility in the event of that person’s death. If a child is in the care of a local authority (this is usually where a child has been through the care system) then they can share parental responsibility too with any of the parents who also have it.
Is it possible to obtain Parental Responsibility as a step-parent?
You will not automatically assume parental responsibility by either marrying or entering into a civil partnership with a child's parent. Whilst parental responsibility is not an automatic right when you become a step-parent, it is possible to obtain it. In the eyes of the law a step-parent is classed as someone who is either married, or in a civil partnership with the child's parent. Parental Responsibility can be obtained in a number of ways, including a Parental Responsibility Agreement, legally adopting the child, or a court order. As experienced family law solicitors in Guildford we can talk you through all the options and work with you to see which suits your circumstances the best.
To make a Parental Responsibility Agreement for a step-parent consent must be agreed by all parties who currently have parental responsibility for the child. You will firstly need to obtain a Parental Responsibility Agreement form from your local court. You must then all sign the form at a court, so it is witnessed by a court officer. You are required to use a separate form for each child and you will be required to show your marriage certificate to prove that the proposed step-parent is legally married to one of the child's biological parents. If one of the parties (i.e. the child's other parent) with parental responsibility does not agree that the order is necessary, but you and your partner feel it is in the child’s best interests to have one, then you will be required to apply for a court order to give you parental responsibility. As expert Family lawyers in Guildford we are best placed to discuss your individual circumstances with you and to help you make the right decisions for the well-being of you and your family.
What the Step-parent parental responsibility means.
It will give you all the same legal rights and duties, in relation to bringing up the child, as the birth parents. It will not give you a greater say in the child's life than the other parent, but you will have an equal say to them and can agree and object to everything exactly the same as they are able to. You will not be removing parental responsibility from the other parent. In most cases if you divorce/separate from the child's biological parent and move out, you do not have an automatic right to see, or spend time with, the child – you may also find that you still have financial obligations to the child and as experts in the field of family lawyers Guildford, we can help you to work through the options available to you.
What if I want to end an agreement?
A parental responsibility agreement can only be ended in one of three ways:
1 either by you, or any other person with parental responsibility obtaining a court order.
2 if the child applies for a court order (they will need permission of the court to do this)
3 it will naturally end once the child reaches 18 years of age.
For any queries you may have relating to any Family Lawyers Guildford issues, rest assured we are specialists in this field, with many years of helping families just like yours. We will always help you to achieve the best possible outcome for you and your family. You will find us to be friendly, professional and thorough in liaising with you about your family law situation. We will gain a thorough understanding of the details important to you and will guide and support you throughout the process. We will always keep you fully informed of the details at all times, with all your options clearly explained to you.
Our experienced family lawyers Guildford have an enviable reputation for achieving excellent results on behalf of our clients and have a wide area of expertise in dealing with all the complex issues surrounding family law. We aim to avoid a lengthy and costly case at this time of heightened emotions and will always act with your best interests at heart.
Gregorian Emerson Family Law Solicitors are specialist family lawyers in Guildford, who have proudly been helping individuals and families for many years to achieve positive and favourable solutions to their family law matters.
If you would like to speak with one of our specialist team please call us on 01483 826470