What's in a name?

17 May 2022 Family Law Clair Cranston
This month sees an anniversary of significant legislation that changed the rules regarding how unmarried fathers obtain rights and responsibilities for their children. Since 4th May 2006, fathers named on their child's birth certificate have gained automatic parental responsibilities and rights (PRRs) - no matter their marital status to the child's mother. 
16 years on, we are now in a position where there are no children left who have a dad named on their birth certificate who has no PRRs automatically (disregarding the continued responsibility to provide guidance to children until they're 18).
Why is this significant? PRRs are the responsibility (and right) to have your child live with you or maintain contact and to control, direct and guide their upbringing. With PRRs you have the legal responsibility to safeguard the child and promote his/her health development and welfare. You require the permission (or order of court) of everyone with PRRs prior to removing the child from the UK. If a major decision is being reached with regards a child you require to take into account the views of all other individuals with PRRs. 
In 2006 the legislation bringing in this change to automatically recognise unmarried fathers was viewed as extremely significant as previously fathers acquired rights by virtue of marriage to the child's mother, by order of court or separate written agreement with the child's mother only, a step which was rarely taken when couples were in enduring relationships. It recognised the changing face of family life and the importance of legal rights of fathers, which of course exist in order that their responsibilities can be fulfilled. 
It remains the role of an unmarried mother to decide whether to name the child's father on the birth certificate of her child. An unmarried father can't register the birth unless the mother agrees by declaration. Different rules apply for married parents which many don't realise. A mother automatically has parental responsibilities and rights no matter her marital status. 
Many people are unaware of the significance of naming the child's father on a birth certificate. For some it's a very simple, obvious decision but in other circumstances it can be more complex. An informed decision is key. 
Whether you are a father who hasn't been named on a birth certificate and are seeking parental responsibilities and rights, or a mother seeking guidance please contact our family law team.

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