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Family Members, Parental Rights & What You Need To Know

View profile for Natalie Flounders
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Modern day families take many forms. There are many children living with their grandparents or other family members for a variety of reasons. Despite the fact that these family members may be full time care givers for these children and meet their daily needs, the law gives them no automatic legal rights to do so and to continue doing so.

A grandparent or other family member providing full time care to children should have the benefit of Parental Responsibility. Parental Responsibility is a person’s right, duty, authority and responsibility in law for their children. This allows day to day care needs to be met and for decisions to be made (although it should be noted that major or important decisions should be taken in consultation with anyone else who has Parental Responsibility). If a grandparent or other family member is granted Parental Responsibility by the court, they will still share this with anyone else who has this; always the children’s mother and in most cases, the children’s father.

Parental Responsibility is granted as a part of another Court Order in this type of situation. A grandparent or other family member should consider applying for either a Child Arrangements Order to stipulate that the children reside with them or, for a Special Guardianship Order.

Briefly, a Child Arrangement Order can stipulate that the children reside with the applicant(s) and deals with the specific arrangements for this together with any arrangements to see anyone else; if needed, together with granting Parental Responsibility. This Order replaces the old Residence/Custody Order.

A Special Guardianship Order gives the Special Guardian Parental Responsibility for the children so that they will live with them, but unlike Child Arrangements Orders, the children’s parents’ ability to exercise their own Parental Responsibility is more limited. A Special Guardian only has to consult with anyone who has Parental Responsibility about the children’s upbringing in exceptional circumstances.

There are differences between the two types of Order and there is no one size fits all approach in resolving what are often complicated situations. Assistance and advice should be sought from a specialist Family Lawyer about which is the most appropriate in the circumstances. 

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