Updated: Jan 8, 2019
A very topical subject that becomes increasingly important with unmarried couples. if a married couple has a child, the father automatically has parental responsibility for the child.
Having Parental Responsibility is important to you. It gives you the legal authority to make decisions about important aspects of your child’s life. These can include their name, school, religious upbringing and place of residence.
Fathers without Parental Responsibility can’t authorise medical treatment for their children (except in emergencies), see their medical records, manage any money they’ve inherited, or prevent their adoption or change of surname or removal abroad.
Of course, if everything is amicable between you and the child's mother, you'll have a say in these things as a matter of course. However, if things change in the future, having Parental Responsibility is the legal guarantee that you're at least allowed through the door of the court to discuss your child's future. Without it, you'll spend your time trying to get it.
IF YOU'RE SEPARATED
You will need to have Parental Responsibility in order for the court to recognise you as the child's father, and they'll have to do this before you can be involved in court decisions about their future, such as which school they go to, which country they live in, what their surname is etc.
Having Parental Responsibility does not, in itself, entitle a parent to live with or see their child; but a father who has it may be regarded more favourably by a court, if this issue comes to it.
Having Parental Responsibility doesn’t make you liable for paying child maintenance: if you are recognised as the biological father, you will have to pay child support – whether or not you have Parental Responsibility.
Another aspect to think about when it comes to Parental Responsibility is that even if one particular parent does not live with the child/ren on a full time basis, this does not in any way diminish the Parental Responsibility.