If you are seeking legal representation, as a step-parent, for any family law Guildford issue then look no further. As experienced family law solicitors we have many years of expertise in this area of the law and are best placed to help you and your family at this potentially difficult time. We can help you to navigate your way though, advise you of your rights and answer every question you may have.
Any step-parent going through a divorce, or separation will be facing many questions over their rights in relation to the child. They will potentially have spent years living as a family unit, building up a close and personal relationship and forging a strong parental-child bond. It can now be an anxious and worrying time as they face concerns about how their ex-partner will now allow the relationship to progress and develop. We understand just how important that bond is and will guide you through all options open to you.
What is the legal definition of a step-parent?
In the UK step-parents are defined as - a person who marries one of the biological parents of a child. Living with the biological parent, no matter the length of time, does not qualify in legal terms - it is only upon the marriage that the term takes on a legal standing. If they were not married to the biological parent, but lived together with them, then their rights will be slightly different and it is important that they speak to a family law Guildford solicitor to discuss all options open to them. A lot will depend on whether or not they hold parental responsibility for the child.
What is Parental Responsibility?
Parental responsibility basically means the legal rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority a parent has for a child and the child’s property. You have a duty to provide a home and to feed and take care of the child in a safe environment. You are also responsible financially for them. Anyone with parental responsibility for a 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, their religion, consent to leave the country (either for a holiday or permanently), or any medical decisions that need to be made. You are required to have parental responsibility to sign anything pertaining to the child, things like school trips etc, as without it you have no legal right to agree to anything on the child's behalf.
Who has parental Responsibility?
A birth mother will automatically have parental responsibility. A biological father will have parental responsibility if they were 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, 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 a will of a parent with parental responsibility, they will also assume full parental responsibility. 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 may share parental responsibility too. As expert family law Guildford solicitors we can help you through this process and answer any questions you may have.
Is it possible to obtain Parental Responsibility as a step-parent?
Yes it is possible to obtain parental responsibility as a step-parent. It is important to understand you will not automatically assume parental responsibility by either marrying or entering into a civil partnership with a child's parent. Parental Responsibility can be obtained in a number of ways, including a Parental Responsibility Agreement, legally adopting the child, or obtaining a court order. Without parental responsibility you cannot make any decisions on behalf of the child - for instance you cannot sign any permission slips from school, or give consent to medical attention in the event they become injured in an accident.
How do you obtain a parental responsibility agreement?
To make a Parental Responsibility Agreement consent must be agreed by both the parent, (that the step-parent is either married to or in a civil partnership with,) plus the child's other parent, (if they have parental responsibility) plus anyone else with parental responsibility. You will need to obtain a Parental Responsibility Agreement form from your local court and you must all sign this form at a court so it can be 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 you are legally married to the child's biological parent. If the child's other parent has parental responsibility and does not agree to you also holding it, then it can be incredibly emotive and unsettling for all involved. If you and your partner feel that it is absolutely in the child's best interests for you to have it, then you will need 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 gives you an equal say to agree or object to matters surrounding the child. If you separate from the child's biological parent and move out, you do not have an automatic right to continue to see, or spend time with the child. The only exception to this is if you have legally adopted the child. You are not liable to pay maintenance for the child.
What if I want to end an agreement?
Ending a parental responsibility agreement can be done in the followings ways:
Either by you, or any other person/agency holding parental responsibility obtaining a court order to end the agreement.
By the child applying to the court for a court order to end the agreement (they will require permission from the court to do this)
When the child reaches 18 years of age it will come to an end automatically and no action will need to be taken.
You will find us to be friendly, professional and obviously thorough, in liaising with you about your family law situation. Using our unique legal and psychological approach enables us to gain a thorough understanding of all the details surrounding your situation and allows us to guide and support you throughout the process. We will always keep you fully informed and up to date with all details of your case.
Our experienced Family law Guildford solicitors have earned 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 expert 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