The Law

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Parental Responsibility

Parental Responsibility places an emphasis on responsibility as well as rights. It makes it easier for non parents, for example a grandparent or step-parent, to make decisions in relation to children they care for through the acquisition of Parental Responsibility.

Who has Parental Responsibility?

Under the law, where a child's Mum and Dad are married when their child is born or they subsequently marry, they will both have Parental Responsibility. They can only lose their Parental Responsibility if the child is adopted. Parents who separate or divorce continue to have Parental Responsibility.

Parental Responsibility consists of 7 duties to a child, these are...

 

  • To safeguard and promote the child's health, education, development and welfare.
  • Provide care, direction, guidance and control in a manner appropriate to the child's age and understanding.
  • To determine all aspects of upbringing.
  • To provide a home, directly or indirectly.
  • To maintain relations or regular contact if not living with the child.
  • To act as the child's legal representative, and
  • To safeguard and deal with the child's property.


Do unmarried Dads have Parental Responsibility?


If a child's Dad is not married to the Mum when their child is born only the Mum has Parental Responsibility. Unmarried Dads may acquire Parental Responsibility by…

 

  • Marrying the Mum;
  • Being registered on the birth certificate;
  • Entering into a Parental Responsibility agreement with the Mum in the prescribed form.
  • If the court makes a Parental Responsibility Order or Residence Order in his favour.


Can anyone else get Parental Responsibility?

 

  • Through Residence or Parental Responsibility Orders, people such as grandparents, family relatives and an adult who has lived with the child for a specified period of time.
  • Guardians appointed on the death of a parent acquire Parental Responsibility in certain circumstances e.g. on the death of any surviving parent.
  • Health and Social Services Department due to a Community Parenting Order, an Emergency Child Protection Order, a Secure Accommodation Order or a Care Requirement.


Sharing Parental Responsibility.

When more than one person holds Parental Responsibility at the same time, one may act independently of the others, with some exceptions set out below. However, there is a clear concept of co-operation and partnership under the Law.

For example, one person with Parental Responsibility could consent to the child receiving medical treatment without seeking the agreement of the other holders of Parental Responsibility, but in practice they should consult and try to seek such agreement.

Holders of Parental Responsibility must agree on the following…

 

  • Naming the child, or changing the name.
  • Removing the child from the jurisdiction of the Channel Islands.
  • Choosing the child's school or religion.
  • Consent to marriage.


If agreement cannot be obtained, an application can be made to the Court.

Parental Responsibility lasts until…

 

  • The child is 18, or the child's marriage before that.
  • Court Orders ending Parental Responsibility.
  • When Parental Responsibility is an integral part of a court order which comes to an end, like a Residence Order.


Other issues on Parental Responsibility.

 

  • Parental Responsibility may be delegated but not surrendered or transferred.
  • Any person aged 16 or over who does not have parental responsibility but has the child in their care, has the right and duty to take whatever action necessary to safeguard the child.
  • Having, or not having, Parental Responsibility, does not affect any other duty a person might have towards a child, like paying maintenance.
  • When a child is subject to a care requirement, the Department and any other named person in a care requirement condition may exercise Parental Responsibility only to the extent necessary to fulfil the care requirement and any conditions.
  • The rights of holders of Parental Responsibility to exercise this on behalf of their children diminish as the child increases in age and maturity. Under the Law, a child aged 12 is presumed capable of forming a considered view about matters affecting them unless shown otherwise.

Some of the procedures described and the terms used may be different depending on whether you live in Jersey, Guernsey or one of the other Islands. If you require any further information or guidance, why not contact us?

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