Children Arrangements and Disputes
The above act defines this term as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”. In reality it gives the parent responsibility for taking all the important decisions in the child’s life like education, religion, medical care, etc. It also enables the parent to take day to day decisions, for example in relation to nutrition, recreation etc.
Married parents have joint parental responsibility. If the parents are not married, only the mother has parental responsibility however an unmarried father can acquire parental responsibility in one of the following ways:
• By being registered as the father on the child’s birth certificate with the consent of the mother (after 1st December 2003)
• By entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother
• By applying to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order
• By being appointed a Guardian either by the mother or by the court. He will assume this role, only on the death of the mother.
• By obtaining a Child Arrangement Order
• By marrying the mother
Section 8 Orders
There are three different types of orders that can be made in relation to children:
- A Child Arrangments Order details who the child/children shall 'live with' and how they shall spend their time or otherwise have contact with the other person named in the order.
- A Prohibited Steps Order is an order that no step that could be taken by a parent be taken without the consent of the court (this order usually deals with a specific problem which has arisen).
- A Specific Issue Order is an order which simply makes a decision on one issue over which there is disagreement which cannot be resolved (for example, which school the child should attend, whether the child should have a particular operation etc)
Changing the child’s surname
Where there is joint parental responsibly, the mother must obtain the father’s permission before she can change the child’s surname, and if this is not given, she will have to apply to the court.
Even where the father does not have parental responsibility, it is good practice to try to obtain his consent to change the child’s surname prior to actually changing it.
Leaving the UK
Where a Child Arrangements Order is in force, the person a with whom the child is ordered to “live with” can remove the child from the jurisdiction for up to 1 month under the terms of the Order. If they seek to remove the child for longer than 1 month, they will require the consent of all parties with parental responsibility for that child or a further Order of the Court.
Where no Child Arrangements Order is in force, a person seeking to remove a child from the jurisdiction will require the consent of all people who have parental responsibility for that child, regardless of the duration of time they are seeking to remove the child for. If consent is refused, the person seeking to remove the child must make an Application for a Specific Issue Order so that the Court can determine whether the child can be removed from the jurisdiction as requested. Where a person seeks to remove the child from the jurisdiction without obtaining the relevant consent, they run the risk that the person or people who have parental responsibility for the child will seek to make an Application for a Prohibited Steps Order to prevent the child from being removed. Furthermore, they may also seek to report that person to the police who will consider whether the offence of child abduction has occurred under the Child Abduction Act 1984.
The issues discussed above will only ever be relevant if the parents cannot reach agreement on such matters. Involving the court should always be a last resort where children are concerned.