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Who has parental responsibility & what is the significance in having it?

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Introduction

Who has parental responsibility & what is the significance in having it? The Children Act 1989 replaced the traditional approach to parents' 'rights' with a new concept of 'parental responsibility' which is defined in s.3(1) as "all the rights, duties, powers and responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property." As will be seen, despite the statutory definition, parental responsibility remains an elusive concept and it is has proven difficult to ascertain precisely what it entails. Before reflecting on this question, it is necessary to consider who has parental responsibility. Parental responsibility does not necessarily correlate with legal parenthood; as will be seen a legal parent will not necessarily have parental responsibility although this is indeed a common assumption. In fact, non-parents may be ascribed parental responsibility by virtue of a residence order, an emergency protection order or by being appointed guardian. Therefore unlike legal parenthood which may be attributed to only one mother and one father, parental responsibility may in fact be vested in several people regardless of gender. In this sense it provides a more flexible mechanism for recognising social parenthood. In relation to legal parents, by virtue of s.2(1) ...read more.

Middle

a manner which appears more favourable to the unmarried fathers as it constitutes a step towards equalising their position with mothers and married fathers. s.111 of The Adoption and Children Act 2002, which amends s.4 of the Children Act, states that an unmarried father may now acquire parental responsibility automatically upon jointly registering the childs birth with the mother; this is assumed not only to imply the mothers agreement but allegedly demonstrates "an appropriate degree of commitment to the child." For those who do not qualify automatically, the 2002 Act retains the existing provisions for court orders and parental responsibility agreements. These reforms, however have not been received well by all. Wallbank, for instance, is rather cautious. The new rules are based on the idea that the commitment which registration allegedly demonstrates is deserving of reward. However, Wallbank contends that the reforms in fact have the effect of "diluting" the degree of commitment needed by unmarried fathers by setting the demonstration of commitment at "the low level of joint registration." It precludes any close scrutiny of the fathers capacity to act responsibly in an ex post facto manner, as was possible under the previous law. However it is arguable that in fact the previous level of commitment which had to be demonstrated was in fact set at a ...read more.

Conclusion

hold that it does not in itself give fathers any greater rights but merely "confers upon the committed father the status of parenthood for which nature has already ordained he must bear responsibility." Ward LJ added that parental responsibility also has the effect of "conferring upon the committed father that stamp of approval" so that the child may grow up with a "favourable image of their absent parent" which will increase their "self esteem." Therefore on this view parental responsibility merely confers status on the parent and acts as a stamp of approval if their moral character. Although this view may be appropriate in light of the little practical significance parental responsibility has in the day-to-day upbringing of the child, as Eekelaar rightly questions, is it really important, in the scheme of things, for a father to invoke a legal procedure and use scarce legal resources to confirm his existing responsibilities and obtain a approval of his character. Adopting such a narrow conception of parental responsibility also has an effect of how we perceive the controversy surrounding whether unmarried fathers should automatically acquire parental responsibility; if parental responsibility is about conferring status and a stamp of approval rather than conferring rights, then surely the argument for automatic conferral in some sense becomes rather futile. Hafsah Masood (Worcester College) ...read more.

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