Parental Responsibility – What it is and how to get it.

Parental Responsibility

Parental Responsibility is the term used to define a person’s responsibility and obligations towards a child. A person with Parental Responsibility can make decisions on behalf of a child such as determining the name that they will be known by, consenting to medical treatment as well as decisions as to how a child is to be educated.

Parental Responsibility can be held by one person or more than one person. Where Parental Responsibility is held by one person, that person has the sole right to make decisions regarding a child and can for example, lawfully change a child’s name, remove the child from England and Wales or appoint a guardian in their will which will take effect upon their death.

Where Parental Responsibility is held by more than one person, they will each hold it jointly and any significant decisions such as changing a child’s name or removing the child from England and Wales (even for a holiday) will have to be agreed by all.

A mother will automatically get Parental Responsibility when the child is born. Unfortunately, it is not so straight forward for a biological father but there are a number of ways in which he might acquire it.

Firstly, he might acquire it if he is married to the child’s mother at the time of the birth or subsequently. Secondly, if he and the mother are not married, he will automatically acquire it if he is named on the child’s birth certificate (for births registered after 1st December 2003). Thirdly, he and the mother can enter into a Parental Responsibility Agreement and finally, an application can be made to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order.

There are also provisions for same sex parents to both acquire it where assisted reproduction has been used including a Parental Order when a surrogate has carried the baby.

People other than the parents can also acquire Parental Responsibility. A Step- Parent might get it by entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement, getting a Parental Responsibility Order or being named as a person the child lives with in a Child Arrangements Order.

Other people may get Parental Responsibility if they are named as a person the child lives with in a Child Arrangements Order, appointed as Special Guardians for the child or validly appointed as a child’s guardian in a parents will on their death or appointed by the court as a guardian following the parent’s death and of course, if they formally adopt the child.

Whether a father has Parental Responsibility or not does not however, mean that he can avoid responsibility for paying Child Maintenance and a lack of it does not impact upon the child’s inheritance rights. It is also the case that where a father does not have responsibility, although the mother may have the sole right to make decisions on behalf of the child, it is still subject to the fathers right to make an application to the court for a Section 8 Order if he does not agree with the decision made.

At Breeze and Wyles Solicitors Ltd our specialist family solicitors have assisted countless people in resolving issues concerning Parental Responsibility and the arrangements for children. We offer initial fixed fee appointments at prices from as little as £50 + vat. We have offices in Enfield, Hertford and Bishops Stortford and also offer telephone or Skype appointments if preferred.

For more information please call us on 01992 558411 or contact us here: http://www.breezeandwyles.co.uk/index.php/form-family-divorce/

 

 


Moving on

8th January 2018 AKA "DIVORCE DAY"

 

 

The beginning of the year always brings with it an increase in instructions as couples make the decision to separate. For some the stress over the festive period was simply too much for the relationship to bear; for others perhaps the decision was made towards the end of the last year but put on hold to allow for “one last Christmas”. Additionally, the New Year is generally a time when we are expected to take stock of our lives and make changes to tackle things that we are not happy with and it stands to reason that this applies just as much to problems with a relationship as with the other areas of our lives such as health or fitness.

A decision to separate is not one to be taken lightly. It has significant consequences for all concerned and especially children. Consideration should always be given to whether the relationship can be saved and in this respect marriage counselling can be of significant benefit. If however the breakdown is irretrievable, early advice from a specialist family solicitor will ensure that you are aware of your options going forward so that you know where you stand in relation to a divorce, the financial arrangements resulting from the separation and also the arrangements for the children.

Breeze and Wyles Solicitors Ltd are specialist family solicitors in Hertford, Enfield and Bishops Stortford, able to offer advice and support in relation to divorce and other family law matters. We are also one of only a few solicitors able to offer the full range of process options including mediation, collaborative law and Arbitration. More information of the services we are able to offer is available on our website , including details of our fixed fee services or alternatively call 01992 558411.


Giving rookie renters a helping hand

StudentFollowing the recent A level results, many first-time students will be looking for last-minute accommodation, if they aren’t heading to their first choice of university with an assured place in the halls of residence.

Parents can help guide the rookie tenants through the process, but may themselves not be aware of how things have changed since their uni days or first-time flat rental.

All too often both parents and students get focused on the emotional upheaval or logistics, rather than the important details of checking out the property and making sure the landlord is a safe bet.

Privately-owned student accommodation is likely to be an HMO - or house of multiple occupation – if it accommodates three or more students, which places extra obligations on the landlord. For example, an HMO will need to satisfy special requirements regarding fire and general safety, utility supplies and management of communal areas, which could include fire alarms, extinguishers and fire blankets on every floor. You can also ask to see landlord's HMO licence. If a landlord doesn't have a licence when they should, they can be prosecuted and you may be able to reclaim up to 12 months’ worth of rent paid during the time that the HMO was unlicensed.

Whether the property is classed as an HMO or not, all landlords should ensure that gas appliances are covered by an annual check, that all electrical installations are checked every five years by a qualified electrician and that any appliances like washing machines, kettles or toasters have a PAT certificate.

In privately-owned student accommodation, any agreement is likely to be based on an assured short hold tenancy. This can be for a fixed term such as the academic year, for 12 months, or periodic, which may run from month-to-month. Most lets include the summer holiday period these days, with either full or reduced rent due.

A written agreement should be provided by the landlord, and as a minimum this should be a statement of the main terms, including the date it will begin, the rent due, when and how it must be paid, if the rent can be changed and how long the agreement is for. Under some agreements the tenants may be jointly and severally liable for the rent. This means that, if one of the tenants does not pay their share, the landlord can sue any of the other tenants for the unpaid rent and may pursue the easiest option.  For example, in a house share with a mix of home and overseas students, the landlord may choose to pursue one UK resident for the whole sum, rather than any of the overseas students. Also, it’s likely that every student will have to be backed up by a guarantor such as a parent.

By law, any deposit must be held by the landlord in a registered deposit protection scheme and you should ask to see evidence of this being done within 30 days. The deposits may be held in the name of one or more designated tenants.

The property should be checked carefully against the inventory, and whether this is a comprehensive record of all contents and the general condition of each aspect of the accommodation or a simple list, it's worth taking photographs of the condition of everything, including any damage or poor condition that you pick up as you go round the property, to ensure that you have a strong case for the full return of your deposit at the end of the tenancy.

Recently, a group of student tenants in Bristol took a letting agent to court and managed to overturn a deduction of £780 worth of charges which was being taken from their deposit to cover redecoration and cleaning. The students had photographic proof of the state of the accommodation when they took it on and could show it was cleaner when they left, as well as having evidence to demonstrate that works claimed for by the letting agent had not subsequently been done. Their attention to detail helped them secure a County Court judgement, and the return of the deposit.

Explained tenancy legal expert Rita Wright, of solicitors Breeze & Wyles Solicitors based in Hertford: “Thanks to the huge rise in demand for university places over recent years, many different types of investors and private landlords have entered the student accommodation sector. There’s been a big shift away from the scruffy digs that people used to experience at university, but there are still many older properties that may be more likely to pose problems in terms of repairs and general condition, and no sector is immune from difficult landlords.

“The important thing is to make sure young people have some guidance, and if necessary get the contract and terms checked out professionally. It's likely to be the parent who is on the line as guarantor, so it’s worth taking time to be sure, and not just jumping to secure a last-minute property.”

Some tips from Rita include:

  • If you’re using a letting agent be sure of their procedures and where a holding or advance rental deposit is required, find out if it will be refunded if the application fails to complete, for example if you don’t pass a credit check
  • Ask to see the relevant licences, such as for a House in Multiple Occupation, and for any gas or electrical installations and appliances
  • If the letting agent or landlord says that any work will be undertaken as a condition of you taking on the tenancy, get it in writing before signing any agreement
  • Read the small print on the tenancy agreement and if anything doesn’t sound right then get it checked out, as once you’ve signed, you’re committed
  • Check the inventory – dispute anything that’s not accurate and take photographs when you move in
  • Make sure the deposit is being held in a Government-backed scheme.

If you have any questions about Tenancy agreements and Landlord Disputes, please contact our Landlord and Tenant department on 01992 558 411 and we will be happy to discuss this in greater detail with you.

Web site content note: 

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

Reference:

Licensing of houses in multiple occupation in England: a guide for tenants

News coverage of student getting back their deposit after court action


New Stalking Laws - look who's behind you

untitledThe Home Secretary, Amber Rudd has announced that the Government is set to introduce new Stalking Protection Orders.

The orders in England and Wales aim to offer quick protection to people who find themselves targeted by strangers similar to that which is afforded to domestic abuse victims.

In 2012 the government introduced 2 new offences of stalking via the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. Whilst there is no strict legal definition of ‘Stalking’, the legislation sets out examples of behaviours which can be associated with stalking, eg, following a person, watching or spying on them or forcing contact with them through social media etc. In isolation the conduct can be innocent but when conducted repeatedly the impact upon the victim can cause significant alarm and distress and curtail the victim’s freedom as they feel vulnerable and left constantly looking over their shoulder.

In December 2015 the government launched a consultation paper to consider the protection that was currently offered to victims of stalking and whether and what change could be put in place to offer better protection.

On the 7th December 2012, the Government published its response to the consultation. The consultation identified concerns that current measures lacked consistency, were slow, costly and placed too much responsibility on the victim to protect themselves.

These proposed orders would allow the police to apply to the court for orders even before a suspect is convicted or arrested. This early intervention aims to offer swift protection for victims, prevent behaviours from escalating and removes the onus from the victim to protect themselves

The exact nature of the orders will vary depending upon the circumstances but would typically prevent the suspect from contacting the victim or going near them but could also impose positive obligations such as interventions to identify and treat any underlying mental health difficulty. Breach of these orders would carry a punishment of up to five years in jail.

The Government has indicated that it would seek to introduce new laws as soon as parliamentary time allows.

At Breeze and Wyles Solicitors Ltd our specialist family solicitors understand the impact of domestic abuse, harassment and stalking. We are able to offer practical advice in plain English in relation to the options available to you with appointments available at our offices in Hertford, Bishops Stortford and Enfield or nationally via telephone or Skype.

For more information on how our family solicitors can help you call us on 01992 558411 or alternatively complete our online enquiry form.


How employers can say no, without saying a word...

As the countdown to the festive season gets underway, employers juggling the pre-Christmas workload need to ensure workers are enabled to take their rest breaks.

The warning comes after an employer was found to have failed to take the necessary steps to facilitate rest breaks – despite the employee not having made any specific request.

The case was brought by an employee who was running a roadside traffic management system.  He argued that he had been denied his legal entitlement to rest breaks under the Working Time Regulations 1998.

The job with Abellio London Ltd involved regulating bus services to match road traffic conditions. Mr Grange, the employee, had a working day of 8.5 hours, including a half-hour lunch break.  When it proved difficult for him to take a break, because of the nature of the job, his employer changed his working day to 8 hours.  The idea was that he would work without a break, but finish half an hour earlier.

All workers are entitled to a 20-minute rest break after six hours of working under the Working Time Regulations, and if the entitlement is breached then an employee can make a claim if the employer ‘has refused to permit him’ to exercise the right. The key question, which took Mr Grange’s case to appeal, was whether an employee could make such a claim when he had not actively requested the break, and so had not received a direct refusal from the employer.

Although the Employment Tribunal first held that there had to be an actual refusal of a request, the Appeal Tribunal held that workers should be positively enabled to take breaks by the employer.

In making the decision, the Employment Appeal Tribunal highlighted that minimum rest periods are essential for the protection of health and safety and said there should be no distinction between entitlements and obligations.

Said Brendan O'Brien, Solicitor, Director and employment expert with Hertford solicitors Breeze & Wyles: “The important thing to take away from this is that employers should not wait for rest breaks to be requested, instead they must be proactive in making sure that working arrangements enable workers to take those breaks.  Otherwise, where the arrangement of the working day makes it difficult or prevents workers from taking a break, this may be taken as a denial of a right.”

He added: “It’s important to have a clear policy, and to make sure that everyone in the company knows and understands how to take their break.  This is particularly relevant to employers in sectors where employees often work long shifts and it is difficult to stop and take a break, such as social care, where continuity of care is vital.  But it is equally important that all employers take it into account at busy periods, such as the run up to the Christmas holiday, and make sure that workers can take the required rest breaks, even if they choose not to."

If you are in a similar situation and would like to discuss this further, call Brendan O'Brien on 01992 558411 or email  brendan.obrien@breezeandwyles.co.uk

Grange v Abellio London Ltd [2016] UKEAT/0130/16/DA

Web site content note: 

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.