Over the last year numerous media articles have looked at so many different aspects of the COVID pandemic and its impact on family life, not least how parenting habits, skills and the work-life balance have had to change. I recently came across an article asking the question whether the pandemic has changed fatherhood forever with many fathers’ roles having changed this past year. Some fathers have had to step up and become more involved in the day-to-day parenting of their children. Indeed, like myself, I am sure there are many fathers reading this article who are pleased with the new joys and experiences of fatherhood in a way that was perhaps either not possible, or not contemplated, before this pandemic began.
Whether this means a change in how fathers care for their children in the future, only time will tell, but it should be remembered that many fathers were already playing a very active role in their children’s care before this pandemic began.
This pandemic will not change the law however, because that remains the same, irrespective of whether we are talking about the father or the mother. The law’s approach is that it is in a child’s best interests to have a positive relationship with both parents unless to have such a relationship with either parent would cause that child significant harm and/or the parent with primary care. After this pandemic is over fathers will continue to have parental responsibility and that legal status will not change regardless of their role as a parent.
Parental responsibility is defined by section 3(1) of the Children Act 1989 as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”. This means a parent who has parental responsibility is recognised by law having responsibility to make day-to-day and important decisions concerning a child’s welfare.
If anyone has any questions about parental responsibility or their role in a child’s life, they should not hesitate to contact us.