About the Family Law Week blog

The Family Law Week Blog is a companion site to Family Law Week. It complements the news, cases and articles published on Family Law Week with additional comment and coverage of the wider aspects of family law.

The Blog is edited by Jacqui Gilliatt, of 4 Brick Court and Lucy Reed, of St Johns Chambers.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Joint Birth Registration & Parental Responsibility

The Government have published a White Paper on Joint Birth Registration following responses received from its Green Paper on the subject last June. The new law will form part of the Welfare Reform Bill in the Autumn and proposes changes to make joint birth registration a legal requirement for all unmarried parents.
This is part of the Government's proposal to promote child welfare and parental responsibility where 45,000 children born each year are sole registered. The Government believes that in 45% of these cases the father has regular contact with the child. In Australia where there is similar legislation sole registration accounts for 3% of registered births.
The Times reports that under the new system the mother will be asked by the registrar to name the father and "the registrar will be obliged to pursue him until he signs." The father can take a DNA test if paternity is disputed and will be fined if he fails to co-operate. There is concern from Union of which most registrar's are a member, that adequate resources will not be provided to registrars to achieve this. There will be very little that the registrar will be able to do other than fining fathers who fail to respond to their requests. Under the new changes fathers will be able to registrar by post and will not need to go to the Registry Office as they have under the present legislation.
The new law will also give fathers the right to insist that they are registered and to have parental responsibility. In these circumstances fathers will be able to take a DNA test if paternity is disputed.
As the piece in The Times says there is nothing that can be done when the mother does not want to name the father. In cases where this is the case or the mother does not know who the father is the registrar will be able to use their discretion to make sole registrations where it is "impossible, impracticable or unreasonable" to obtain both names.

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