Welfare Reform 2009

Welfare Reform Bill and its Impact on Father’s Rights in relation to Parental Responsibility.

How does one acquire parental responsibility?

Under s4 of the Children Act 1989 as amended by the Adoption & Children Act 2002 if the couples are not married the father can acquire PR either by: being registered as the father on the birth certificate; executing a Parental Responsibility Agreement (PRA) with the mother; by obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order (PRO) from the court; or by obtaining a residence order, in which case a separate PRO must be made.

Particularly, s111 of The Adoption & Children Act 2002 demonstrated a major turning point in Family Law in permitting unmarried fathers to obtain automatic parental responsibility if their name is registered on the birth certificate. Where a child’s father and mother are married to each other at the time of his birth, they shall each have automatic PR for the child.

However it is worth noting that this provision although a welcome advance is not retrospective. Therefore, unmarried fathers who registered the birth before this date still needed to re–register in order to obtain parental responsibility.

Until recently unmarried fathers could only appear on the birth certificate of the child if the biological mother agreed.

Statistically the responsibility to register a new baby for unmarried parents lies mainly with the mother. In England and Wales around 7% of births each year are solely registered by mothers, which means every year up to 45,000 children do not have their father named on their birth certificates.

How does the Welfare Reform Bill help fathers?

The introduction of the White Paper in June 2008 – “Joint Birth Registration: Recording Responsibility” announcedplans to change the law so that fathers as well as mothers are named on the birth certificate, therefore making registration of the biological father a mandatory requirement.

The change, which will be implemented in the Welfare Reform Bill, is intended to fulfil the commitment made in the White Paper “Joint Birth Registration: Recording Responsibility” to legislate in order to make joint birth registration by unmarried couples the normal, default position, thereby empowering unmarried fathers with the right to have their names entered on the birth register and to gain parental responsibility automatically. Consequently this route is no longer entirely subject to the behest of the mother. The Bill received Royal Assent on 12 November 2009 and is now an Act of Parliament.

How does it protect the vulnerable mother?

In the Act’s explanatory note it is acknowledged that such a duty to provide information about the father violates the mother’s rights under Article 8 European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

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For more information on:

  • What about the financial implications of the act?
  • Why change the Law in relation to father rights?