Parental responsibility is the duty to care and make decisions for a child. This includes providing a home, looking after the child, organising schooling and making medical decisions.
Do Both Parents Have Parental Responsibility?
A child’s birth mother automatically has parental responsibility. A married father whose name is on the child’s birth certificate also acquires it.
On the Isle of Man, unmarried fathers of children born before 1 November 2013 do not have automatic parental responsibility. Since that date, they can acquire the responsibility if their name is entered onto the birth certificate.
A parent who holds parental responsibility can consent to it being granted to the other parent and sign a legal agreement to this effect. Application can also be made to the court to request it.
Making Decisions When Both Parents Have Parental Responsibility
In a separation where both parents have parental responsibility, each party has an equal right to be informed and make appropriate decisions about their children. On a practical level however, where a child spends more time living with one parent, then that parent will need to make everyday decisions without constantly seeking approval from the other.
It is preferable if a couple can work together amicably to parent the child. Where disagreement arises, the courts will always look first at the best interests of the child when making an order.
Drawing Up A Parenting Agreement
It can help everyone involved if an agreement is drawn up setting out details of what each parent may agree unilaterally and what needs the other’s approval. This can avoid the need for court involvement.
The law does not specify which decisions need the consent of both parents, however the courts have given some helpful guidance in previous cases, which is a good starting place for an agreement, as follows:
Decisions that could be made independently and without either consulting or notifying the other parent:
- What the child will do during contact with the parent;
- The child’s personal care;
- Activities that the child will take part in;
- Religious and spiritual pursuits;
- Continuing GP medical treatment.
Decisions where one parent should always inform the other of the decision but where they do not need to consult or take into account the other parent’s views:
- Emergency medical treatment;
- Booking a holiday or taking the children abroad in contact time;
- Planned GP visits and the reason for the visit.
Decisions where the other parent needs to be informed and consulted before the decision is made:
- Choice of school and admission applications;
- Contact rotas for school holidays;
- Planned medical or dental treatment;
- Stopping medication;
- Attending school functions, to enable planning so that both parents can attend;
- The age that children will be allowed to watch films rated as suitable for over-12s, over-18s etc.
A parenting agreement can also include details of other arrangements that have been agreed between the parties. There is the option to make the agreement legally binding by asking a judge to make a consent order including its terms.
At Quinn Legal we understand the importance of reaching an agreement with your ex that prioritises your children’s best interests and gives you certainty and security. We would be happy to talk you through the options available and answer any questions you may have.
Our family team have extensive experience of handling contact and separation matters following the breakdown of a relationship and know the legal processes inside and out.
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