You may have informal arrangements as to who will look after your children if anything happens to you. Without naming a Guardian in your Will it's open to doubt and Social Services could intervene to deny your wishes. In some circumstances, decisions on hospital treatment can also be delayed if there is no Will. Informal arrangements with relatives are not recognized by Authorities.

* Unmarried fathers have limited legal rights. Try putting the children on their father's passport!
* Make a Will and appoint Guardians of your choice to look after your children.
* Make a Will and create a Trust for the benefit of your children.
* Save your Guardians time and money contesting their rights in the Courts. Making a Will can make sure your wishes are adhered to.

The Children's Act 1989 came into force 14th October 1991 and introduced the new concept of Parental Responsibility.

Parental Responsibility

The term "Parental Responsibility" has come about through the philosophy that vital to the relationship between parent and child should be a responsibility toward the child rather than having rights over that child.

The Law is particularly pertinent where a couple who have between them produced a child and are not married.

Who has Parental Responsibility?

If both the 'Birth Mother' and 'Birth Father' of a child are married at the time of the birth then BOTH mother and father have and will continue to have Parental Responsibility for that child.

A subsequent Adoption Order concerning that child will however cause the parents to lose Parental Responsibility by Court Order.

Mothers automatically have Parental Responsibility. Where the parents are not married, the unmarried father has Parental Responsibility if:

* His name is registered on the birth certificate-this is the case for births after 1st December 2003. Fathers can re-Register if their names have not been placed on the birth certificate before this date.
* He later marries the mother.
* Both parents have signed an Authorised Parental Responsibility agreement.
* He obtains a Parental Responsibility Order from the Court.
* He becomes the child's Guardian.

Others, such as grandparents, do not have Parental Responsibility. They can acquire it by:

* Being appointed as Guardian to care for a child if their parent dies.
* Obtain a Residence Order from the Court for a child to live with them.
* Adopting the child.

The Guardians appointed in your Will only act if both parents die. In a divorce case where the father lives away and the mother dies, again any Guardians appointed by the mother will not automatically be entitled to act if the birth father is still alive. Note; Grandparents do not have by right, nor would they be granted automatic Parental Responsibility. They could, however if circumstances dictated, be awarded a Residence Order. Better still, they could be appointed to act in your Will. An Adoption Order concerning any child will cause the parents to lose Parental Responsibility by Court Order. Generally it would be advisable to appoint in your Will a Husband and Wife team who would obviously be more capable of acting as Guardians than separate individuals who live in different locations.