Families now come in all shapes and sizes, and children may live with parents who are cohabiting, civil partners, married, separated or divorced. They may be part of a step-family, live with adoptive parents, grandparents, other relatives or a special guardian.
If you have spent many years living with and developing a close bond with a child, you may be concerned that your ‘parental’ status is not formally recognised and you may worry that you could be excluded from key decisions in the future.
Helen Morgan, family law expert at Mooney Everett solicitors in Ormskirk explains that ‘parental responsibility determines all the rights, duties, powers and responsibilities and authority that a parent of a child has in relation to the child and their property.’
Whoever has parental responsibility has a duty to:
- care for the child and provide a home;
- to ensure they receive appropriate education and medical treatment; and
- to keep other parents with parental responsibility informed about such decisions.
In return, you have the right to be involved in decisions about the child’s name, where they live, which school they should go to, and whether the child can leave the country.
It also means that you can give permission for medical treatment and consent to the child’s marriage between the ages of 16 and 18. You can also appoint legal guardians to act in your place in your will.
‘These are all sensitive and potentially contentious issues in the event of a separation or divorce or childcare dispute,’ explains Helen.
If you are concerned that you might not be included in key decisions regarding a child who has been part of your family for some time, it would be wise to seek legal advice.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.