When parents separate, the question of who makes decisions concerning their children arises. Someone with parental responsibility has rights and obligations in respect of a child, but simply being a parent does not mean that responsibility is automatic.
Living on the Isle of Man can mean that a parent can’t necessarily take their child to the mainland without consent if the other parent has parental responsibility.
Who is given parental responsibility?
A child’s mother automatically has parental responsibility as well as fathers who were married to the mother at the time of the birth.
Fathers and civil partners who are registered on a child’s birth certificate also have parental responsibility where the registration took place on or after 1 December 2003.
What rights and duties does someone with parental responsibility have?
As well as the power to make certain decisions in respect of the care and upbringing of a child, parental responsibility also imposes obligations. These include providing a home and financial provision, looking after and protecting the child and their property, making decisions about education and healthcare, disciplining the child and naming them or agreeing to any change of name.
Consulting the other parent with parental responsibility
When two parents have parental responsibility for a child, they both have the right to be kept informed about parenting decisions made by the other parent as well as the right to make decisions themselves.
Where a child lives mainly with one parent, in practice that parent will make basic decisions without consulting the other. However, major decisions should be agreed upon between both parents where possible. These include contact dates for school holidays, planned medical procedures, attendance at school functions, which school a child will attend, stopping medication and the age at which a child can watch a film with a particular age rating.
For a child who lives on the Isle of Man, a parent would normally need to seek the agreement of the other parent with parental responsibility before taking the child off-island.
For more information about the decisions which a parent can make unilaterally and those which require the agreement of both parents, see our article about parental responsibility decisions.
Parenting without parental responsibility
Many fathers without parental responsibility still act as a full and engaged parent to their child, despite not having the formality of legal responsibility. They also have basic rights that come from being a father, including providing financial support, the right to apply for contact or residence and the right to ask the court to prevent someone from taking a child out of the country or to make an order in respect of a specific issue, usually in the areas of medical treatment or education.
It is also possible for a father to apply to the court for an order granting them parental responsibility.
Communication and setting out a plan can be very helpful in avoiding ongoing disagreements between parents. By drawing up a parenting agreement, both parties understand what is expected of them and what decisions they and their co-parent can make unilaterally.
While a parenting agreement isn’t legally binding, the court may refer to it in the event of a dispute. In any event, a judge will always make decisions that are in the best interests of the child.
At Quinn Legal our family law experts can draft a parenting agreement that puts your child’s interests first but that also gives you security and peace of mind for the future. We’ll work with you to identify what is important and draw up a fair agreement that you can use as a roadmap for your decision-making.
We can also advise you in respect of any disagreement and help you and your family move forward to a secure new phase in your lives.
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