Children are often in a very vulnerable situation following the separation of their parents. The law encourages parents to try and reach agreement on the arrangements to be made for their children. If, however, agreement cannot be reached, we can help you.
Initially, we seek to reach agreement through negotiation. If however negotiations are not successful, it may be necessary for an application to be made to a court for orders in relation to the child's welfare.
Parents of a child who are married have equal responsibilities and rights in relation to that child. Parental responsibilities include:-
- The responsibility to safeguard and promote the child's health, development and welfare.
- To provide direction and guidance to the child.
- If the child is not living with the parent, to maintain personal relations and direct contact with the child on a regular basis.
Parental rights include:-
- The right to have the child living with you or otherwise to regulate the child's residence.
- To control, direct or guide the child's upbringing in a manner appropriate to the state of development of the child.
- If the child is not living with you, to maintain personal relations and direct contact with the child on a regular basis.
These responsibilities and rights apply provided it is practicable for the parent to carry them out, and that they are in the interests of the child. There may be some situations where a parent will not be entitled to these rights or responsibilities, as for them to do so would not be in the interests of the child.
A situation may arise whereby parents cannot agree on some issue in relation to their child, eg where the child should reside or how much contact the other parent should have post separation. In that event, we would try and help you come to an agreement as to the best arrangement for your child. Failing agreement, an application can be made to court asking the court to make an order confirming with which parent the child should reside, or to specify the contact that the other parent should have. The court can also deal with any other specific issues that arise in relation to a child. These orders can be applied for and made on an emergency basis to avoid any delay in determining these important issues.
If the parents of a child are not married, the child's mother has full parental responsibilities and rights. The father has no automatic rights or responsibilities, unless he has registered as the child's father and has signed the child's birth certificate. This is the position in respect of unmarried fathers from 4th May, 2006. Unmarried fathers who signed the child's birth certificates prior to this date have no automatic rights or responsibilities. It is open to the parents to enter into a Parent Responsibilities and Parental Rights Agreement, which effectively gives parental responsibilities and rights to the father. Such an agreement can be entered into whilst the parents are still together, and would afford the child's father the same responsibilities and rights as the child's mother. Parental Responsibilities and Rights Agreements are in a prescribed form and are simple to complete. They are clear in their terms. We can assist you in the completion of a Parental Responsibilities and Rights form. Alternatively, you can obtain a form from any Registrar's office or Citizens Advice Bureau.
If following a separation, unmarried parents are unable to agree on any issues in relation to the children, including the issue of with whom the child should live or how much contact the other parent should have, it is open to either parent to make an application to the court with a view to regulating these issues.