Unfortunately, the effects of a relationship breakdown are often extended to the children involved.

The most common issues which arise in terms of children are parental contact with the child and indeed which parent the child will live with on a day to day basis. These issues are known as residence and contact.

The legal issue here is parental responsibility, which is legally defined 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”.

As the law currently stands, a mother has automatic parental responsibility, irrespective of her marital status. Whether the father of the child also has parental responsibility depends upon whether he was married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth. A father only has parental responsibility if he is married to the mother when the child is born or has acquired it via one of the following routes:

  • (from 1 December 2003) by jointly registering the birth of the child with the mother
  • by a parental responsibility agreement with the mother
  • by a parental responsibility order, made by a court
  • by marrying the mother of the child

Either parent may apply to the Court for an Order known as a Residence or a Contact Order. A person does not necessarily need to have Parental Responsibility to apply for such an Order.

Where the courts are concerned, with any dispute where children are involved, the welfare of the child is of paramount importance. Ultimately, decisions will be made based upon what is best for the child.

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