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Can you choose to have your parental responsibility terminated?

Published on

December 4, 2023

It’s very rare that a parent would request for their parental responsibility to be terminated. But in one of the first cases of its kind, GF (A Minor), Re [2023] EWFC 203, this is exactly what happened.

What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental responsibility refers to the rights and duties which a parent has in respect of their child. In practical terms, it means the power to make important decisions in relation to a child such as where they live, which school they go, and what medical treatment they can or cannot receive. All birth mothers automatically have parental responsibility as do fathers married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth, and fathers, civil partners and partners of mothers registered as the child’s legal parent on the birth certificate.

GF (A Minor), Re [2023] EWFC 203 (11 July 2023)

In this case, GF (A Minor), Re [2023] EWFC 203, the child was already subject to a care order and the child had no relationship with the father. The child specifically did not want to see the father and he made an application to terminate his parental responsibility, which he had acquired by being named on the birth certificate.

The reason why this case is highly unusual is that applications of this nature are usually in circumstances where there is a very significant risk of harm to the child for their parent to retain their parental responsibility. It is not applied when there is no current relationship between the child and parent. What has happened for this relationship to breakdown so irretrievably?

Under section 4(2A) of the Children Act 1989 is states: “A person who has acquired parental responsibility under subsection (1) shall cease to have that responsibility only if the court so orders. The reported cases in the Red Book only concern applications where is a very significant risk of harm to the child if the parental responsibility is not terminated.

The Verdict

The Court found that the father was not exercising his parental responsibility for the child and despite this, His Honour Judge Levey said ‘I would not be prepared to go as far as to say that this is a case where the court would not make a parental responsibility order.’ Notwithstanding this, the court felt that the child’s welfare would continue to be met if his parental responsibility was terminated. Ultimately, it did not impact the child.

It’s an incredibly sad case, and a child who is already in the care system has now also had their father on their birth certificate, request and be granted to have his parental responsibility terminated.

Learn more about Parental Responsibility

Are you concerned about obtaining parental responsibility? Our family lawyers are here to help. Contact us today to discuss your family law matter.

About the Author

Estella Newbold-Brown is a partner and head of the family law department. Estella specialises in divorce, pre-nuptial agreements, and child arrangements, including parental responsibility orders.

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