Written by Bradie Pell

Head of Family at Graysons Solicitors

Bradie is a family law solicitor who joined Graysons in January 2016. She was admitted as a solicitor in January 2011. She has been specialising in family law since 2014. Bradie deals with the whole spectrum of legal issues that affect families, including divorce, separation, finances, injunctions, and children matters.

The answer to this question depends on your marital status. However, the issue of naming the father on the birth certificate only really becomes significant when you are unmarried due to the factor of parental responsibility.

If an unmarried father is not named on the birth certificate, he will not automatically acquire parental responsibility, although he can still obtain parental responsibility by way of a court order.

In summary, parental responsibility is the term used to describe the rights and responsibilities of a person in relation to their children. Parental responsibility is automatically gained by the mother of the child. The father also automatically acquires this if he is married to the mother at the time of birth of the child. However, unmarried fathers only automatically obtain parental responsibility if they are the father of a child born after 1st December 2003 and their name is on the birth certificate. If an unmarried father is not named on the birth certificate, he will not automatically acquire parental responsibility, although he can still obtain parental responsibility by way of a court order (see below).

How can an unmarried father gain parental responsibility?

An unmarried mother of a child can register the birth of a child on her own without naming the father on the birth certificate. Despite this, an unmarried father will still have some rights towards the child and can still gain parental responsibility by doing one of the following:

Re-registering the birth – this can be done with the mother’s consent by contacting the local register office and both parents attending. If the father is unable to attend he must fill out a statutory declaration of parentage form: a copy of which can be found at https://www.gov.uk/register-birth/who-can-register-a-birth.

Parental responsibility order – if the mother does not consent to the re-registering of the birth, the biological father can apply to the court for a parental responsibility order. A parental responsibility order can be applied for at the same time as applying for other court order, such as a child arrangement order.

Child arrangements order – this is an order by the courts that governs who a child should live with and have contact with. If it is ordered that the child should live with the father then he will gain parental responsibility.

What does it mean to have parental responsibility?

Although having parental responsibility means that you can make decisions relating to issues such as education, medical treatment, religion and general upbringing it does not necessarily mean that either parent can drastically change the daily care of a child. Neither does mean that there is an automatic right to contact with the child or to know the whereabouts of other people with parental responsibility or where the child is living.

If you cannot agree on a decision concerning the upbringing of your child, there are always options. Initially there is family mediation, which is the quicker and cheaper option and will hopefully lessen conflict and foster more parental cooperation. However, in the event that an agreement cannot be reached in this way, then either parent can apply to the court for a specific issue order or a prohibited steps order and neither has to have parental responsibility to be able to do this. These orders are effectively asking the court to make the decision on behalf of the parents, and in all circumstances the decision made by the court will be based on what is in the best interests of the child.

Ultimately you are not obliged to enter the father’s name on the birth certificate. However, as outlined above, not doing so does not mean that the child’s father has no rights in respect of the child and it could leave you open to a court application. In reality, the best option for your children is always a harmonious out-of-court agreement. However, if this cannot be achieved there are many provisions in place that prevent either parent from acting in a way that is not in the best interests of the child.






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