A recent storyline in Coronation Street centred on the father of Leanne’s baby Oliver. This all came to a halt when Steve McDonald was revealed as the child’s father. For those of you who don’t watch Coronation Street, the background is as follows: Whilst Steve and Michelle were on a break he had relations with Leanne who is in a relationship with Nick. Leanne then falls pregnant with Steve’s baby. Leanne and Nick agree to bring the child up together as a family and Steve confirmed he was happy with this and did not want anything to do with the baby.
However, things take a turn when Steve and Michelle lose their child. Following this tragic event, Steve holds baby Oliver for the first time and decides that it’s his son and he wants to be in his life. However, Leanne tells Steve that he will not be part of baby Oliver’s life. This poses the question; is there anything that Steve can do? The legal position is a follows:
When a child is born the mother automatically attains parental responsibility. Parental responsibility is defined as “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”. A parent with parental responsibility is therefore able to make decisions in regard to that child’s day-to-day life.
Under the Children Act, you may exercise your parental responsibility for your child without interference from another person. However, case-law has developed to state that in certain situations parents are under a legal duty to consult each other when making decisions of their child’s life. This will generally be seen when parents have separated. In the case of A v A (Shared Residence)  Mr Justice Wall stated “It is a basic principle that, post separation, each parent with parental responsibility retains an equal and independent right and responsibility to be informed and make appropriate decisions about their children. However, where children are being looked after by one parent, that parent needs to be in a position to take the day-to-day decisions that have to be taken while that parent is caring for the children. Parents should not be seeking to interfere with one another in matters which are taking place while they do not have the care of their children. Subject to any questions which are regulated by court order, the object of the exercise should be to maintain flexible and practical arrangements whenever possible.”
So we have a situation where the mother has parental responsibility for the child, but what about the father? If a father of the child is married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth, they will also automatically have parental responsibility. The problem occurs when the father is not married to the mother of the child. A father can obtain parental responsibility in a variety of ways as follows:
- Registering the child’s birth with the mother, this will provide you with parental responsibility from the date of the child’s registration.
- If your child was born before December 2003, re-registering their birth by adding the father’s details will automatically provide you with parental responsibility. For this to be effective, you would need the mother to attend the re-registration with you or provide a formal declaration agreement by the mother stating your name is to be added to the birth certificate. It is worth noting that this process can only be used to obtain parental responsibility where the father’s details are not originally on the birth certificate.
- Marrying the mother of the child.
- Obtaining a Child Arrangement Order which provides you with residence of the named child(ren) from the court – this will automatically give you parental responsibility of the child(ren) listed in the order. This will be effective for the duration of the order whereby you have residence of the child(ren).
- Parental Responsibility Agreement – this can be signed by the birth parent(s) on form C(PRA1).
- Parental Responsibility Order from the Court.
- A step-parent’s Parental Responsibility Agreement can be made by consent with all those who already have parental responsibility.
Steve could obtain parental responsibility for Oliver using one of the above methods. The most effective way for Steve to obtain parental responsibility for Oliver, given Leanne’s hostility towards him, would be to apply to court for the same.
If Leanne continues to refuse Steve any contact with Oliver he may wish to apply to the court for a remedy. Before he can make his application he would have to attend a Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting. This is an attempt at mediation between the parties to come to arrangement without the involvement of the court. This may also avoid wasting court time and money, if the matter can be dealt with amicably. Steve will have to demonstrate he is the child’s father or has parental responsibility of the child to apply to the court for a Child Arrangement Order. This application will enable Steve to set out his case in front of the court, providing details of why he should have contact with baby Oliver. Leanne will also have the opportunity to provide the court with the reasons she does not want Steve to have contact with his child. It is however likely that the court will provide an order for Steve to have contact with baby Oliver as there is a presumption of parental involvement. This means the court will, unless there is evidence to the contrary, presume that both parents being involved in a child’s life will further their welfare.
If you find yourself in a similar situation to Steve’s or have an ex-partner that is refusing you contact with your children do not hesitate to contact PMC Family Law Solicitors. You can contact us by telephone on 0151 375 9968 or by email at for your free first initial consultation.