Married fathers: an exceptional parental responsibility status?
Sarah French | 20.06.2019
29.03.2019 Sahil Aggarwal
Mother’s day, otherwise known as Mothering Sunday, is around the corner. It is often considered a day for children to show their appreciation to their mums, and if you’re lucky there may even be a homemade present. Mother’s day, just like Father’s day, can also be a point of contention when trying to sort out the children’s time between separated parents. It is therefore a good opportunity to reflect on some of the differences between mothers and fathers when dealing with these issues.
On paper, biological mothers will usually acquire parental responsibility for their children as an automatic right. In contrast, biological fathers do not automatically assume parental responsibility unless they are married to the mother at the time the child is born. If the parents are not married then they must agree for the father to be named on the child’s birth certificate in order for the father to acquire parental responsibility. If this cannot be agreed then it may be necessary to seek a court order for parental responsibility.
In Court, Judges must endeavour to hold mothers and fathers in the same light irrespective of their gender and public perceptions about their respective roles. This is easier said than done when biology plays a part. When considering how much time children should spend with each parent, it is necessary to consider some of the practical differences between mothers and fathers. For example, breast feeding will inevitably mean a child may need to spend much more time with their mother than their father save for exceptional circumstances. Ultimately, any distinction drawn by the court is meant to be based on practical reasons like this rather than society’s views on the type of role each parent should take.
It is worth remembering that the law has taken strides over the past couple of decades. We now live in a time when children can have two mothers or two fathers as a result of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 therefore breaking down this distinction. However; the law still draws some differences in court and on paper, some of which are unavoidable.
If you need help or advice sorting out the arrangements for your children, please speak to one of our expert family lawyers.