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Child law – Termination of parental responsibility

relationship breakdown

As reported by Adoptions From The Heart, to date, there have only been three reported cases of a court terminating a Fathers parental responsibility.

  • All Mothers and Fathers married to the Mother at the time of a child’s birth acquire parental responsibility and it cannot be terminated by the court; it is only lost upon the child’s death, adoption or the child attaining the age of 18.

However, different rules apply to Fathers who are not married to the Mother. If a child is born before 1 December 2003, a Father can only obtain parental responsibility by entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the Mother or by order of the court. If a child is born after 1 December 2003, a Father obtains parental responsibility automatically by being registered as the child’s Father on the birth certificate. However, it is not only that parental responsibility is not automatic for unmarried Fathers but that it can be terminated by court order whereas a married Fathers parental responsibility cannot.

There is therefore a distinction between married and unmarried fathers. This is currently the focus of a Court of Appeal case (CW v SG). This is an appeal by a Father against an order terminating his parental responsibility in respect his 8 year old child. Permission was granted by the Court of Appeal to hear the argument that the differential treatment of unmarried and married fathers is discriminatory contrary to Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950 (ECHR). The awaited decision in CW v SG could therefore be significant in this area of law and an update will follow once the outcome is known.

For specialist advice on any family law related issue contact Maguire Family Law by email: or telephone:

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