Understanding Parental Responsibility During Divorce
Usually, as soon as you become a parent, you assume parental responsibility for your child. This means that you must provide a home for your child, protect and care for them, educate them and support them financially.
These responsibilities apply equally to married and unmarried parents, with the exception of unmarried fathers in situations where the child's mother has not registered their name on the child's birth certificate, or they are not legally recorded as having parental responsibility or a child arrangements order.
How can parents maintain parental responsibility during a divorce?
Whilst a divorce is an emotionally complex and stressful experience, it is crucial that the needs of the child(ren) are prioritised and the parents maintain as stable a home as possible for them. This often means arranging a shared custody arrangement in which the children live part time with each parent, although both parents must have equal opportunity when it comes to making important decisions about their lives.
The notion that divorce automatically removes parental responsibility from either parent is untrue. Parental responsibility will usually only be withheld if no biological connection exists between the child and one of their parents, the child was adopted by only one parent or legal action has been taken to remove a parent's rights, based upon a court determination that the child(ren) would be at risk of neglect or harm if they were to spend time with that particular parent.
Communication is key
It is vital that parents going through the process of divorce try to remain on amicable terms for the sake of their child(ren). They will need to agree to some key life decisions, including where the child(ren) will live, how much time they will spend with their other parent, how they will be financially supported, how holiday care will be split and potentially in the future, how they will be integrated into a new family unit, should either parent remarry.
Divorce is stressful for the parents but it can be an equally uncertain and worrying time for the child(ren) who are affected. They must be treated with compassion and have their fears addressed openly and honestly so that they understand that they are not to blame, will not be isolated from either parent, suffer social stigma or be placed into an uncomfortable situation.
Donna Goodsell comments that protecting a child's interests during a divorce is of the utmost importance. Parental responsibility is a lifelong commitment and one which both parents must prioritise, even when facing a very challenging period in their own lives. With the help and support of a specialist family law solicitor, the difficulties of navigating this challenging time can be eased and mutually agreeable outcomes achieved.