Continuing our new legal column where experts from Cameron Jones Hussell and Howe solicitors answer your questions:
I recently split from my long-term girlfriend, we have two children together aged two and four. I have attempted to establish visitation with them. However, my ex- partner has informed me that I am not on their birth certificates. I was not aware of this. If I am not their registered father, how can I gain access to them? And can she stop me from seeing them?
Mr D M
A Thank you for your question. The first thing to say is that if a child is born on or after 1 December 2003 to an unmarried father who is registered on the birth certificate at the time of initial registration then that father will automatically have parental responsibility.
It seems that that did not happen in your case as a result of which you do not have parental responsibility at present. That situation can be addressed in several ways.
Perhaps the most appropriate in your case would be either for your former partner to enter into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with you, which if all formalities are complied with, means that you both have parental responsibility for the child. If your partner is not willing to enter into such an agreement then a court may order that you should have parental responsibility.
The reported cases on this suggest that the factors that will be taken into account would be the reasons for your application, the degree of commitment that you have shown to the children, the degree of attachment between yourself and the children, and the nature of the relationship between yourself and the mother of the children.
If you were on the birth certificate, you would have had to attend at the Registrar’s Office with your former partner. It seems unlikely therefore that you are on the birth certificate at present.
A copy birth certificate can actually be purchased from the Superintendent Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages and enquiries can be made with them as to whether you are able to see the birth certificates or whether you would need to purchase them in order to fully ascertain the position.
However, it’s important to note that the fact that you do not have parental responsibility for the children does not mean that you are not entitled to see them. Whether or not you have parental responsibility you are able to apply to the court for a Child Arrangements Order to determine when the children should spend time with you.
The court will consider the position very fully, and the welfare of the children will be the court’s paramount consideration. There is a presumption that involvement of a parent in a child’s life will further the child’s welfare, and unless there are good reasons why you should not see the children I think a court is likely to be sympathetic to an application.
Parents are now expected to consider whether Dispute Resolution Services, and in particular mediation, are appropriate before you apply for a Child Arrangements Order. Other than in exceptional circumstances, an Applicant to the court will be expected to have attended a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting to obtain information about mediation, and consider the suitability of this method of resolving disputes.
I hope that this is helpful.
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