Advice For Parents

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What is Parental Responsibility?: 


When a person has parental responsibility for a child, that person can make all of the important decisions concerning the child’s upbringing. This includes, for example, decisions about which school the child attends, what, if any, religion they should follow and also decisions about any medical treatment they should receive. 
 
More than one person can have parental responsibility for a child and each can exercise their parental responsibility independently. So, for example, a mother who cares for her child can make decisions about routine medical treatment for her child without having to obtain the agreement of the father who also has parental responsibility.

 A child’s mother always has parental responsibility for their child and a father has parental responsibility if he is married to the mother or if he is named on the child’s birth certificate (for births registered after 1.12.2003). If a father doesn’t automatically have parental responsibility he can acquire it by entering into a formal agreement with the mother or by obtaining a court order.

There are other family members, such as step parents or grandparents, who are very important to children but who don’t automatically have parental responsibility. Step-parents can acquire parental responsibility by entering into an agreement with the child’s natural parent and this is quite important as it means that they can take decisions in relation to the child in the event that the natural parent is for some reason unable to do so. Step parents may also make an application to the court for parental responsibility in appropriate circumstances.  Grandparents may acquire parental responsibility if they are caring for their grandchild by way of a court order. Source: Co-Op Legal Services

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Parental Responsibility: A summary

By Benjamin Delve of Berry Smith Solicitors.

Between 2001 and 2011 the proportion of households in the UK which consisted of cohabiting couples rose from 14% to 17%, over one third of which had a dependent child.

With many couples choosing to live together, and have children, without getting married, there has inevitably been a rise in the number of people seeking advice as to their ‘parental rights’ for their children as these rights can differ from a married parents.

What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental Responsibility is the legal framework that reflects the everyday reality of being a parent (particularly taking account for, and making decisions about, a child’s welfare) until a child is able to make the decisions for themselves.

The word “responsibility”, rather than right, is used to place emphasis on the principle that decisions made by the parents should be made in the best interests and welfare of the child, and that the parents have a ‘responsibility’ not to neglect the child in this regard. Likewise, parents of children are encouraged to consult one another, and have a positive discussion, when making such.

There is no definitive list of the issues which are governed by Parental Responsibility, however, as a general rule the issue to be decided must be concrete (such as a decision about which school the child will attend or what medical treatment he should receive) rather than conceptual.

It should be noted that where more than one parent has parental responsibility for a child, no one parent can change the child’s surname or obtain a passport for the child without the consent of all individuals/organisations with parental responsibility for the child. 

Who can obtain Parental Responsibility?

Where the parents are married both the mother and the father will obtain Parental Responsibility for the child automatically. 

Where the parents are unmarried, only the mother will obtain Parental Responsibility automatically upon the birth of the child. The father, or other parent, can obtain Parental Responsibility for the child upon any of the following taking place:

1. The natural father marries the mother at a later time.

2. Their name is entered on the child’s birth certificate, after December 2003.

3. The mother appoints the individual as the child’s guardian in the event of her death.

4. They obtain a Child Arrangements Order for the child, stating that the child is to live with them; and/or

5. They obtain a Parental Responsibility Order at Court.

6. They enter into a Parental Responsibility Agreement (as a Parent or Step-Parent) with all other individual
        parties who have Parental Responsibility for the child.

It should be noted that there are other parties, and means, by which parental responsibility can be gained, such as by the parents of an adopted child, or the Local Authority for a child in care which are not covered in this article. 

What to do if you can’t agree?

Whilst it is hoped that parents will be able to reach an agreement on all issues regarding their children’s welfare there are occasions when no mutual decision is reached. Depending on the circumstances of the case, efforts should be taken to resolve matters amicably either between yourselves or with the assistance of a third party such as a qualified mediator.

If no agreement can be reached, then it may be necessary to make an application to the Court to decide the issue (known as a Specific Issue order). These proceedings can, however, be lengthy and expensive and you should take legal advice before deciding whether to file an application at Court.

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Parental Responsibility. By Vanessa Gillbanks Legal Exec with Gross & Co, Suffolk.

What is Parental Responsibility?

The rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and the child’s property, including:

1. Care and control of the child
2. Discipline
3. Protection and maintenance
4. Contact
5. Education
6. Religious upbringing
7. Protection from publicity
8. Medical treatment
9. Surname
10. Removal out of the jurisdiction
11. Consent to marriage
12. Agreement to adoption
13. Appointment of guardian
14. Administration of property


Who has Parental Responsibility?

Married parents have joint parental responsibility. If the parents are not married, only the mother automatically has parental responsibility.

How can an unmarried father acquire Parental Responsibility?

This can be done in one of six ways: 

1. If the child is born on or after 1 December 2003, by registration on the child’s birth certificate with the    consent of the mother.
2. By entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother.
3. By applying to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order. 
4. By being appointed a guardian by the mother or the Court.
5. By obtaining a child arrangement order from the Court.
6. By marrying the mother.

Who else can acquire parental responsibility? 

In some cases, step parents, grandparents, and others by obtaining a child arrangement order or a Special Guardianship Order. Local Authorities can obtain parental responsibility for children by obtaining interim or full care orders.

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INFORMATION REGARDING PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY

By

Alexandra Funnell Partner Hart Reade Solicitors

 

Parental Responsibility means “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”.

What Parental Responsibility comprises:

While it may not be possible to state with certainty the precise ambit of responsibility, the following would seem to be the more important aspects:  

—           Providing a home for the child.

—           Having contact with the child.

—           Protecting and maintaining the child.

—           Disciplining the child.  

—           Determining and providing for the child's education.

—           Determining the child's religion.

—           Consenting to the child's medical treatment.

—           Agreeing to the child's change of name.

—           Consenting to the child's marriage.

—           Agreeing to the child's adoption.

—           Vetoing the issue of a child's passport.

—           Taking the child outside the United Kingdom and consenting to the child's emigration.

—            Administering the child's property.

—            Representing the child in legal proceedings.

—            Appointing a guardian for the child.

—            Disposing of the child's corpse.

Where the child’s parents are not married the father does not obtain Parental Responsibility unless it is through a Court Order, or by agreement which would involve you both signing a form, or by registering the father on the child’s Birth Certificate (after 01.12.03)     If no agreement is reached, then the father can make application to the Court for an Order.

The whole idea of Parental Responsibility is that it is for the benefit of the child, and not the parent, and legally an unmarried father has a duty to maintain a child regardless of whether or not he has Parental Responsibility.  If a father has not paid any money towards the support of the child, and will not agree to do so, an application to the Child Maintenance Options Service is normally advised.   There are rare cases where a mother is able to successfully defend an application by the father to obtain Parental Responsibility, but these are increasingly rare, and I would say that the mother would have to show that:-

 

(a)          The father does not have any commitment

(b)          The child does not have any attachment to the father

(c)           The reasons for the father applying for Parental Responsibility are such that he should not     

               be able to obtain it.

 

Therefore, if the Court decides that the father has fulfilled the above, objections to an Order being granted because of the rights and powers it gives the father will carry little weight.

The effect of a Court Order conferring Parental Responsibility on an unmarried father means that he would share responsibility jointly with the mother.   He will be in the same legal position regarding the child as if he had married the mother.     A Parental Responsibility Order ceases when the child reaches majority.

The Courts tend to emphasise to a father who has acquired Parental Responsibility that it does not give him the right to interfere in the day to day care and decisions taken by the mother, but it is mainly intended to benefit the child and grant some recognition of the father’s responsibility towards the child.

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Amy Winehouse's death, 6 tips for parents to monitor children's addictions. 


No one can predict for certain the future or even whether genetics show that one child is at a higher risk of becoming an alcoholic than another child, and there is no sure fire way to prevent its onset or know if a prediction will even come into fruition.

Notwithstanding, it may be helpful, for parents to be vigilant and step in and do whatever they can to curb, suppress or head off a path towards addiction.  The alternative is to ignore warning signs, do nothing and just deal with it if and when it comes. No parent wants to go through what Amy Winehouse’s did and have to cope with the loss of a child.

Here are a few suggestions for parents to consider to stay one step ahead of a potential addiction problem:

1. Be aware: Watch for early signs that a child exhibits obsessive behavior or an unnatural or excessive craving and desire for one activity or object (e.g. to play video games, eat, watch tv) and shows extreme reaction of being deprived of that activity or object.
 
2. Stay Active: Know the children that your kids associate with, befriend and are influenced by. Sharing meals together and taking an active role in school help to know who your child interacts with.  Dinner time is an opportune to probe, ask questions and discover what’s going on in you childrens’ lives.  A Study from the Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, in New York found that teens are more likely to abuse drugs when family dinners are infrequent.  Also, by volunteering in the school, parents get a first hand  chance to examine and witness for themselves the type of kids in the school and to discover if their children are hanging around those who may be into sinister activities.

3. Engage in healthy alternatives: Keep your children active in sports or some other type of activity or club that takes up their time and leave them little opportunity hang around and get into trouble.  Also, playing sports releases natural endorphins that can simulate euphoria.  They create a natural high and can eliminate the need or interest in artificial ones.  Kids involved in sports usually have to be physically fit and unimpaired in order to perform.  Many athletic children avoid alcohol, drugs, excessive eating or other negative behaviors that can impair their physical fitness. 

4. Set boundaries:  Establish consistent limits.   Forcing a child to engage in activities in moderation will teach them to shift focus and attention elsewhere over the course of a day and minimizes opportunities for a child to become addicted to it. Children need boundaries in order to function and learn self-control.  They can also help later in avoiding or resisting developing an addiction.

5. Monitor online activities:  Teenagers do have rights to privacy, but they do not have the right to peruse illegal websites or sites that promote illegal activity. Parents’ rights to monitor, police and keep children from harm trump their kids’ rights to be free from parental snooping.  Parents may want to invest in tracking software that helps them monitor what sites their kids are watching.  If a parent learns, the teen is visiting sites that promote the use or purchase of illegal substances, alcohol or other vices, the parent can step in sooner before a curiosity or early use turns into hardcore addiction.

6. Seek outside counseling or help: If you suspect your child may be using drugs, is withdrawn, forgetful, letting his grades slip and exhibit all the early signs of substance abuse, get help early. It’s easy in our busy lives as parents to willfully overlook changes or dismiss them. 
In the battle against drugs, family members have an uphill battle and many lose. The earlier we take charge, the better our odds of defeating the addiction demon.

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Paramount Principle (sec 1 (1) 1989 Children Act

When a court determines any question with respect to a child's upbringing, administration of property or income, the child's welfare must be a paramount consideration.

 

Welfare Checklist (sec 1 (3) 1989 Children Act

If considering an opposed s.8 Order or Care or Supervision Order (including Interim Care and Supervision Orders), the court must have regard to the checklist of the:

 

  • Child's wishes and feelings;
  • Physical, emotional, educational needs;
  • Likely effect of change of circumstances;
  • Age, sex, background, relevant characteristics (this should include race, culture, religion and language);
  • Actual or potential harm;
  • Capability of parents/relevant others to meet the child's needs;
  • Capability of parents/relevant others to meet the child's needs;
  • Available range of powers.

 

 

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Child Contact Made Simple

By Kenn Griffiths

During and following separation and divorce kids need a great deal of love understanding and reassurance from both of their parents. Evidence shows that the majority of children want to continue to see people that matter to them. Pressure from the adults often stops them from feeling comfortable enough to express their true feelings. The best way of ensuring that you are doing everything possible to keep your children safe, well and happy is to make sure that they enjoy good quality contact and that means putting their needs before your own and making sure that they are encouraged to go to contact with their non-resident parent. Encouraged means just that! Simply agreeing to contact taking place is not enough. Children have to be continually reassured and actively helped to attend contact with their absent parent. Contact should be seen as a joyous occasion and not an anxiety filled adult led continuation of the parent’s dispute. All too often children are used as pawns... Contact can happen only if Dad pays his maintenance or Mum jumps through some emotional hoop etc etc. Unbelievable I know, but it happens all the time. One of the most effective ways of ensuring that you get contact right for your sons and daughters is to ask them what they want and to listen to them and then actively alter arrangements to suit their changing needs. This can only be done when both parents cooperate and that includes respecting each others views and opinions. (Something that was probably lacking in the marriage/relationship). Where possible avoid any sudden changes in the contact arrangements. Children need structure and stability. “A survey of 2,000 children aged six to eleven on contact with their fathers’ showed that they saw good contact as being:

  • Dads showing interest in their schooling
  • Preparing meals
  • Watching TV with them
  • Playing football
  • Reading them stories
  • Going shopping together and
  • Helping them through bad times

One child called it ‘messing about with dad, another ‘being loved’ by her dad. They did not see contact in terms of getting expensive toys, bikes, computers and holidays, but about having a relationship with and being ‘looked after’ by their parent” Time for Children CAFCASS.

This is exactly what children need and what good contact is really about. Don’t get drawn into the media stereo typical portrayal that parents don’t get contact right. Statistics show that “Only a small minority of parents use the law to sort out contact arrangements. A survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that around 1 in 10 parents had court orders. Between half and 60% agreed contact between themselves and between a fifth and a third had no agreed arrangements (resident and non-resident parent reports differ)” Child Contact With Non-resident Parents University of Oxford Department of Social Policy and Social Work.

Contact doesn’t just happen it has to be planned. Probably the most difficult contact to properly plan is staying contact, be it for one night or longer. Staying contact puts extra pressure on children. They have to adapt to a different household usually with different rules. Parents need to have agreement about routines. It helps if parents can be flexible and have an overall understanding of the difficulties.

Contact goes wrong:

  • When children are put at risk
  • When members of the family are not committed to contact
  • When contact is made a negative arrangement
  • When a parent has unreasonable opposition to contact or wants to significantly change the contact arrangements, but not for the child’s good...

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Dealing with difficult behaviour

It has been said that children are born with a brain that is nothing more than a ball of confusion, and that what the child experiences, especially in their early years, shapes and organises there thoughts, beliefs and behaviour.

Children are not born with behaviour they learn it! From you!!!

Basically, behaviour can be put into two categories, acceptable and un-acceptable. Parents need to know how to respond to and deal with both in equal measure. Showing children how happy they make you feel when they are operating in an acceptable manner helps to build their self-esteem and lets them know what is expected of them. Responding to their un-acceptable behaviour should be done in a way that shows them that what they are doing will not get them what they want, which is, a happy you. What you must not do is become angry and upset with them when they are learning life’s lessons. You need to be understanding of them and guide them. Smacking and shouting means that you have gone past the stage of positive child development. You have ‘lost it’.

Being consistent is the key. From the very beginning of their life with you, you should continually spend time with them. The more the better. It is easy to miss the need to constantly show them how happy you are when they are acting in an acceptable way.

Because they are not causing you any problems there is a tendency to leave them alone. Wrong! You need to show them even more attention. If you don’t, they will quickly learn that the best way to get your attention is to act in an un-acceptable way.

“Children’s behaviour sometimes requires more serious attention. But, that doesn’t have to include actions that are hurtful, such as hitting, humiliating or yelling. Effective discipline only has to give children the message that their behaviour was a problem. If a negative consequence is used, it should be so light that it can be used several times a day without causing harm.” (Off Road Parenting, Pacifici Chamberlain and White)

Remember...

  • Be consistent with your approach
  • Keep talking to your child especially when they are being good
  • Don’t wait until the behaviour deteriorates to the point that you become angry
  • Use your body language to show approval. Smile, show your happiness
  • Enjoy being a parent

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Better Parenting with Triple P

"One of the most important tasks of parenthood is helping children learn to deal with their emotions. All children experience periods of stress in their lives and need emotional skills to deal with it. Children's emotional resilience, or ability to cope with their feelings, is important to their long-term happiness, wellbeing and succcess in life." (Triple P Positive Parenting Program)

More Information

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                                                          INFORMATION REGARDING PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY

By

Alexandra Funnell Partner Hart Reade Solicitors

 

Parental Responsibility means “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”.

What Parental Responsibility comprises:

While it may not be possible to state with certainty the precise ambit of responsibility, the following would seem to be the more important aspects:  

—           Providing a home for the child.

—           Having contact with the child.

—           Protecting and maintaining the child.

—           Disciplining the child.  

—           Determining and providing for the child's education.

—           Determining the child's religion.

—           Consenting to the child's medical treatment.

—           Agreeing to the child's change of name.

—           Consenting to the child's marriage.

—           Agreeing to the child's adoption.

—           Vetoing the issue of a child's passport.

—           Taking the child outside the United Kingdom and consenting to the child's emigration.

—            Administering the child's property.

—            Representing the child in legal proceedings.

—            Appointing a guardian for the child.

—            Disposing of the child's corpse.

Where the child’s parents are not married the father does not obtain Parental Responsibility unless it is through a Court Order, or by agreement which would involve you both signing a form, or by registering the father on the child’s Birth Certificate (after 01.12.03)     If no agreement is reached, then the father can make application to the Court for an Order.

The whole idea of Parental Responsibility is that it is for the benefit of the child, and not the parent, and legally an unmarried father has a duty to maintain a child regardless of whether or not he has Parental Responsibility.  If a father has not paid any money towards the support of the child, and will not agree to do so, an application to the Child Maintenance Options Service is normally advised.   There are rare cases where a mother is able to successfully defend an application by the father to obtain Parental Responsibility, but these are increasingly rare, and I would say that the mother would have to show that:-

 

(a)          The father does not have any commitment

(b)          The child does not have any attachment to the father

(c)           The reasons for the father applying for Parental Responsibility are such that he should not     

               be able to obtain it.

 

Therefore, if the Court decides that the father has fulfilled the above, objections to an Order being granted because of the rights and powers it gives the father will carry little weight.

The effect of a Court Order conferring Parental Responsibility on an unmarried father means that he would share responsibility jointly with the mother.   He will be in the same legal position regarding the child as if he had married the mother.     A Parental Responsibility Order ceases when the child reaches majority.

The Courts tend to emphasise to a father who has acquired Parental Responsibility that it does not give him the right to interfere in the day to day care and decisions taken by the mother, but it is mainly intended to benefit the child and grant some recognition of the father’s responsibility towards the child.

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