Cohabitants and ChildrenParental responsibility

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Cohabitants and Children - Parental responsibility

Family Law - Cohabitants and Children - Parental responsibility

Breaking up is hard to do and it may come as a surprise to you that an unmarried father does not automatically have parental responsibility if his child is born before 1 December 2003 (or 4 May 2006 in Scotland). However, an unmarried father may obtain parental responsibility in various ways, including:


  • By marrying the mother subsequent to the birth
  • When the court makes a child arrangements order in which he is named as the person with whom the child is to live it must also make a separate parental responsibility order
  • When the court makes a child arrangement order in which he is named as a person with whom the child is to spend time it, the Judge might make a separate parental responsibility order
  • Entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother - Parental Responsibility Agreement
  • Or obtaining an order for parental responsibility - Application for an order
  • After 1 December 2003 (or 4 May 2006 in Scotland) the father may acquire parental responsibility by registering the child's birth jointly with the mother at the time of birth or agreeing to re-register the birth jointly with the mother at a later date

On a father's application for parental responsibility, the court will consider:


  • The degree of commitment the father has shown to the child
  • The degree of attachment between him and the child
  • His reasons for applying

Parental responsibility means that you should be consulted in relation to issues regarding a child's welfare such as a change of name, the need for any medical intervention and the child's education. Any dispute as to how parental responsibility is exercised could involve you having to make an application for a specific issue or prohibited steps order.


If you would like us to assist you in making an application for a specific issue or prohibited steps order. to change your child's name please contact us on 07940 384785.


Change of Name

A child's surname must be registered at birth by law. It is the mother's responsibility where the parents are unmarried to ensure that the child's birth is registered. A child's surname can be changed after registration by deed poll or, informally, by use of a different name. If more than one of you has has parental responsibility, neither of you can change the child's name without consulting the other. If a Child Arrangement Order in respect of who the child is leaving with is in force, then it will be necessary to make an application to change a child's surname. In all other circumstances the application should be for a specific issue order. Remember a change of surname will only be ordered if a Judge considers that it is the best interest of the child.


The court will take into the following things when considering whether a child's name should be changed:


  • The child's welfare
  • The link of the name between the child and both parents
  • The quality of the relationship between the child and both parents

If you would like us to assist you in making an application to change your child's name please contact us on 07940 384785.


Child Maintenance

With regard to providing for your child/children, the statutory child maintenance scheme through the Child Support Agency (CSA) or the Child Maintenance Service has control to calculate maintenance where the parent who has the child living with them, the parent who does not live the child and the child all are resident in the UK. For your child to quality for statutory maintenance they must be under 16, or under 20 and receiving full-time educaton.


If you want to make an application for a maintenance assessment to the Child Maintenance Service then there is a fee of £20 is payable. Though, of course, it is less stressful and cheaper to try to reach a voluntary parental agreement.


The court has jurisdiction to make child periodical payments orders in circumstances including where:


  • There is a consent order: although a written agreement may be converted into a maintenance order, once it has been in force for a year and either parent can apply to the Child Maintenance Service for child maintenance calculation
  • A child is over 16, or over 20 and in full-time education, as they fall outside the child support legislation
  • The child or one of their parents is habitually resident overseas
  • The application is for school fees, tertiary education or vocational training
  • The child is disabled

A parent, step-parent, guardian or person named in a Child Arrangement Order as a person with whom the child is to live may apply for a of orders under the Childrens Act 1989 and if you are an older over the age of 18 can apply for periodical payments, normally for financial support for further education or vocational training, or if there are special circumstances that justify the making of an order.


You can also apply for a Lump sum orders under the Childrens' Act 1989 for:


  • Past expenditure, eg reimbursement of expenses connected with the birth
  • Future expenditure, eg a family car or a school fees fund

There is no limit to the number of lump sum applications that can be made until the child reaches the age of 18.


This booklet on parenting may help you to be able to work through this process - Parenting Plan

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