Beverley Jones, Associate in the Family team, answers the most frequently asked questions about legal rights in relation to children.
Q. What is parental responsibility and how do I know if I have got it?
A. Parental responsibility is all the legal rights and responsibilities connected to a child. It allows you to be consulted in all major decisions concerning your child, such as medical treatment, change of name, and education.
You obtain parental responsibility automatically if you are a mother of a child and/or married to the mother of your child. If you are a father and your child was born after 2003 and you are registered on the birth certificate as the father you will also automatically obtain parental responsibility.
Q. My ex-partner won’t let me see my children. What can I do?
A. One option is to attend a mediation with a view to reaching an agreement directly with the assistance of an independent mediator. However, where this is unsuccessful or inappropriate, an application can be made to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order. The Court will always look at what is in the child’s best interests and it is generally thought to be in a child’s best interests to be able to have a relationship with both parents.
Q. My children don’t want to see their dad, do I have to make them go?
A. If the children are living with you, you have a duty to encourage them to spend time with the other parent. However children’s wishes and feelings will be taken into account, subject to their age and understanding.
Q. I’m a dad without parental responsibility but I have a good relationship with my ex-partner and we’ve come to an agreement about me seeing our daughter - do I need to obtain parental responsibility?
A. It is advisable to obtain parental responsibility to ensure that you share the rights and responsibilities as a parent with your ex-partner. This will allow you to consent to medical treatment for your daughter and be consulted in all major decisions concerning her upbringing. You can obtain this either by entering into an agreement with your ex-partner or by way of Court Order.
Q. If I am a grandparent do I have rights to my grandchildren?
A. Grandparents do not have an automatic right to make an application to see or care for their grandchildren however they can apply to the Courts for permission to do so. It is usual for leave to be provided and thereafter the Court consider the merits of the grandparents case. The Court will always consider what is in the child’s best interests and it is usually thought to be in a child’s best interest to have a relationship with their extended families although not to see as frequently as a parent.
Q. If child maintenance has been agreed, does the Child Support Agency (CSA) or the Child Maintenance Agency have to be involved?
A. No, they do not need to become involved if agreement is reached as to the appropriate level of child maintenance.
Q. How is child maintenance calculated?
A. Historically the CSA has managed child maintenance. They look at several things to work out child maintenance, including:
- The paying parent’s net weekly income.
- The number of children needing child maintenance.
- How often those children stay overnight with the paying parent.
- If the paying parent or their partner gets Child Benefit or is paying maintenance for any other children.
For new cases, the CSA has now been replaced by Child Maintenance Options. Child Maintenance Options calculate child support differently to the old CSA in that they consider a parents gross pay rather than net pay. The percentage of gross pay that will need to be paid to the resident parent will depend on:
- The non-residents total gross weekly income.
- The number of nights the child stays with the non-resident parent.
- The number of other children in non-resident parents household and/or whether the parent has to pay child maintenance for any other children.
There is a child maintenance calculator on the Child Maintenance Options website which can give you an accurate assessment as to what is a reasonable and appropriate level of child maintenance.
Parents should be advised that there is an application fee and collection fee in respect of these services, encouraging parents to reach agreement directly using the calculator for guidance.
If you have any queries relating to the above, or another aspect of family law, please do not hesitate to contact Beverley JonesThis information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.