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Case Study

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We were approached a Father who had recently been bereaved when his long term partner had died suddenly. The parents had not been married as is often the case in current times and did not foresee any issues around this. The parents had a boy and a girl together and were an extremely happy and stable family unit until the Mother suddenly passed away.

The Father was understandably devastated as were the children and in a bid to help the son, his School offered him a free place on a School trip abroad. The Father readily agreed to this as he was keen for the son to have this positive experience especially at this difficult time.

It transpired that the son’s passport had expired and therefore he was taken to the passport office to request a replacement as soon as possible. At this stage an unexpected issue arose. It became clear that the Father did not have what is what is known as Parental Responsibility for the children, this was an utter shock to him and all concerned. If the parents had been married the Father would have automatically gained Parental Responsibility, the other ways would have been if the parents had entered into a Parental Responsibility agreement, or if he had made an application to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order or the final option would be if he had been named on the child birth certificate and the child had been born after December 2003. Unfortunately the parents had never considered the concept of Parental Responsibility before this and the child had been born before December 2003. As the Mother was deceased at this point the only way for the Father to gain Parental Responsibility now was to apply to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order. The issue here is that this can be an expensive process and it is also rarely a quick process.

Parental Responsibility is a right that parents can hold in relation to children, Mothers automatically gain Parental Responsibility for children, however, Fathers have to gain it in different ways. The Parental Responsibility enables that person to be involved in important decisions in children’s lives. These include any name changes, education and medical treatment for the children.

As it was now urgent the only way that we were able to assist the Father in the short term was through providing a document called a Statutory Declaration of Loco Parentis. This was a rather ironic situation as these statutory declarations are intended for situations where someone who is not actually a parent acts as a parent, loco parentis literally meaning in place of a parent. In light of this, it was even more surprising that the Father would need this kind of declaration, however, it was the only option available to help him quickly and therefore enable the son to go on the School trip. Therefore, we drafted the appropriate statutory declaration, a statutory declaration is a statement where someone is making a official formal statement to the world confirming something, and the client signed this in the presence of a official witness.

We were pleased to report that the passport office were fully satisfied with this statutory declaration and the young boy was issued with a new passport and was therefore able to attend the School trip.

These situations are especially gratifying for a Solicitor as you feel you are truly able to help your clients.

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