When a Child is born, the birth mother automatically has parental responsibility (PR) for the child. If the child’s father is married to the mother at the time of the birth, then he too has automatic PR for the child. If the parents are not married, the father can acquire PR by being registered on the child’s birth certificate, with the mother’s consent. It is also possible for the father to obtain PR via a court order.
For many children, their parents will be the only people who will exercise PR for them throughout their lives and make important decisions about them. An example of this is a parent consenting for their child to have immunisations.
The Local Authority and Parental Responsibility
Where the Local Authority have become so concerned about a child’s welfare and have issued care proceedings, they may apply for an Interim Care Order. If granted, this means that the Local Authority shares PR for the child with the parents. The Children Act 1989 says that in these circumstances, the Local Authority must consult those with PR when making important decisions. However, if there is any disagreement the Local Authority can make the final decision as they have a superior form of PR.
In this situation, a parent can make an application to Court to challenge this. In the first instance, the parent should consult with a solicitor who may be able to negotiate with the Local Authority.
Quite often, the Local Authority will share PR for the child for the duration of the care proceedings only. The child may then return home to the parent, or there may be an alternative placement for the child to go to and the Local Authority may then end their involvement. In some situations, a child may be made subject to a final care order and in this situation, the Local Authority would share PR for the child long term.
Please contact the family department for further advice.
Legal aid may be available to assist.