PR

LGBT parents – the basics

With the increasing openness when it comes to the existence of LGBT people there’s a corresponding increase in the visibility of them in all walks of life – including as parents. Unsurprisingly enough (for some of us at least) lesbian, gay, bi and trans people do have kids.

Some of them are conceived, born and are raised in families in the *ahem* old-fashioned way, others in a more circuitous manner. It’s not an unreasonable believe to think that a non-traditional family faces it’s own unique challenges and in many respects it’s a correct one.

In terms of the law however there isn’t a great deal of difference between straight and/or cis people and everyone else when it comes to the matters concerning contact, residence (OK, OK `who the child lives with’) and everything else the Family Court is concerned with.

There are a few basic thoughts to consider here.

PR is important to LGBT people

Parental Responsibility is the key here. In short that means a) being on the birth certificate or b) having an order awarding you PR. Without it, you are at a serious disadvantage.

If you’re adopting a child, it’s something that should be taken care of. If you’re conceiving artificially, make sure you are on the birth certificate – or that the birth parent signs a C(PRA001) form to give it to you.

Rainbow flagThe nuclear scenario? You split from your partner and you don’t have PR. Your ex refuses contact and when you apply to the courts you’ll be filling in the standard form for contact (a C100) but you’ll also be needing a C2 (permission to apply) because you have no legal relationship with your child. And when you get there your ex will deny contact, deny you had much involvement with your own child and in the meantime is free to change their name, give PR to whoever they like and move to the other side of the planet if they so wish without you being able to stop them.

So get PR.

The T in LGBT

When it comes to trans parents they may well already have PR – particularly if the child was conceived/born before transitioning. It’s a sad fact to say that many of our trans clients coming out/transitioning has been at least a factor in the breakdown of their relationship with their ex’s. And often a source of hostility when it comes to children having an ongoing relationship.

Yet children are usually completely unfazed by this because Mum is still Mum and Dad is still Dad.

Furthermore in our experience the court is usually completely indifferent to a client’s status as transgender and wholly uninterested in parents seeking to use this fact to limit a child’s relationship with either parent. It is possible it will likely be an aspect discussed in any welfare report (such as a CAFCASS Section 7 Report) but will often carrying little weight overall.

But that’s no different to any other case where a child’s welfare is examined.

TL:DR

If you don’t have PR, get it. Whether you are still with your partner or they are now your ex. You are putting yourself at a serious disadvantage without it.

Stepparent rights?

When your ex remarries their new husband or wife have legal rights over your children, right? They are a stepparent after all aren’t they? Not the same as a biological parent, true – but a parent all the same.

They’ll be able to make major decisions about your kids’ lives. Where they go to school. What medical treatment they receive. That sort of thing. They’re your kids’ parent as much as you aren’t they? Especially as they will likely see your kids more than you do, right?

A Stepparent has no legal rights or responsibilities.

Being a stepparent confers no rights and no responsibilities. They have no legal relationship to your child. The only thing that counts is PR (Parental Responsibility).

Wicked stepmotherBut Aha!’ I hear you cry. `My ex’s new partner/spouse is listed as a contact at my kids’ school and doctor! And they told me they aren’t going to allow me to see the kids!’

As always…this is a lack of understanding of the law. It’s not the law itself. If your ex has PR they have the same legal status as everyone else. And they’re only going to get that by getting a court to order it or with the agreement of everyone else who has PR (and I am assuming that includes you, dear reader).

So assuming your ex’s partner acts in a way that is inconsistent to your child’s best interests what do you do? Quite simply – they’re not a party to anything that involves your children. Your ex, as the responsible and child-focused adult that he/she undoubtedly is will of course only allow your child to spend time with an appropriate adult.

Your ex is responsible for their partner as a stepparent

Any application to the court should be to other holders of PR – usually your ex. Simple as that.

A stepparent can make an application with regard to your children however. To do so they need a C100 and a C2 form (the latter for permission); they’ll need to demonstrate they have played a meaningful role in your children’s lives for their application to be heard.

Anyone who doesn’t have PR for a child is in the same boat – it doesn’t matter what their relationship with the child is. So don’t focus on your ex’s new partner; it is all about the best interests of your child as always.

 

Is having Parental Responsibility a waste of time?

PR (Parental Responsibility) doesn’t stop your ex denying your kids time with you.

It doesn’t stop him/her deciding what school they go to, what medical treatment they get, etc.  You do have a legal right to be `consulted’ – but seeing as there’s no definition of what this actually means this means it can range all the way from you and your ex discussing things like grownups and coming to an agreement all the way to being informed `That’s my decision whether you like or not’.

Your child’s name cannot be changed without the agreement of everyone who currently has PR or a court order either.

In private law unless there is an order that says otherwise all the rights and responsibilities of PR remain whether you see your kids or not, whether you have a residence order or not, whether the ex says you don’t have any rights any more or not. The rights and responsibilities are helpfully listed in a landmark case – A vs A.

Let me tell you a story…

…once upon a time there was a dad called John. John had a son but didn’t see him much and didn’t have PR for him either. He wasn’t even mentioned on his son’s birth certificate as his father! He was scared to ask for PR because he was worried his son’s mum would stop his son seeing him. So he took what time with his son he was allowed. After an argument with his son’s mum he saw his son less than he did before.

His son’s mum met a new partner who she loved a great deal. She loved him so much she gave him PR for the little boy. And because she loved him so much she married him – and decided it made sense for the son to have the same family name as her and her new husband’s one.

John was extremely upset by all this. As time went on, his son saw him even less and asked for more time and to be given PR. He asked to be named on his son’s birth certificate but his son’s mum decided it would be less confusing if her husband was on it instead – so she changed it. His son’s mum’s new husband told John he couldn’t have PR either and there was nothing John could do about it…and he was right apart from going to court.

PR is an essential – not an optional extra.

You can apply for a court order for contact without PR. It does happen. Expect to be asked why you’ve not bothered to apply for it in the past however – and expect the other party to suggest you aren’t committed to your child. You can convince your kids’ school or doctor to keep you on the loop – but don’t be surprised if they refuse or suddenly change their mind when the ex tells them not.

PR means you are as much a parent as anyone else who has it.

How the kids divide their time doesn’t change that. Neither does a Residence Order. You are a parent. Act like it!

Will my ex stop me taking my kids abroad on holiday?

Holiday times are busy here at Family Law Assistance Towers. It’s up there with Christmas, Easter and any other occasion you really, really don’t want ruined.

It’s also a situation where there is a lot of disinformation and misunderstanding.

So to cut to the chase, here are a few truth bombs:

  1. It doesn’t matter if you or your ex has a Residence Order (or neither of you do) – if you have PR for your kids you can get a passport for them – you will need to provide the Passport Agency with a copy of your court order to do this. Make sure you do this way ahead of travel.
  2. If your ex has a Residence Order and you don’t you need his/her permission (it doesn’t have to be written permission mind) to take the kids abroad for up to 28 days.
  3. If there is a Shared Residence Order or no order at all made with regard to residence at all you can both take the kids abroad for up to 28 days without the other parent’s permission.
  4. You don’t have to give the other parent details of where you are going – but do it, OK? If you’re withholding it you’re liable to be seen as `sticking it to the ex’ rather than doing it for any child-focused reason. Flight details and the resort, etc. It’s a just normal courtesy.
  5. If your ex has the passports and refuses to hand them over organise mediation (if there is time) or make an application for a Specific Issues Order (if there isn’t) – completing a C100 form. Bear in mind with this one that delays in the court are especially pronounced around holiday time so make sure you organise all of this plenty of time ahead. You will get a hearing date after your holiday if you don’t get your skates on.

Hope this helps. Unless you have a court order that modifies or limits it, it is all about PR (Parental Responsibility). As I repeat ad nauseum it’s not really about Residence Orders despite everyone absolutely positively needing one to make sure the kids aren’t taken away.