10th February 2014

Birth Certificate Ploy Could Rebound on Corrie Bad Girl

One of the most gripping storylines currently running in Coronation Street  revolves around the battle between the short-fused former policewoman, Kirsty, and her battered boyfriend, Tyrone, over custody of their newborn daughter, Ruby.

Having been subjected to domestic violence for a number of months, Tyrone's desire for a parting of the ways has been thwarted following Kirsty's decision not to put his name on Ruby's birth certificate.

Although the story is set in England, any father resident in Scotland would face a dilemma similar to that of Tyrone. Prior to the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006, an unmarried father did not have parental rights and responsibilities in relation to his child. This changed for children born after 4 May 2006, provided the unmarried father was named on the birth certificate, which gave him the same parental rights and responsibilities as the mother. Unfortunately, the change in the law does not give a 'Tartan Tyrone' automatic parental rights and responsibilities.

It is possible for an unmarried father to obtain parental rights and responsibilities by agreement with the mother. The agreement is in a statutory form that can be downloaded from the Scottish Government website. Both parents sign the document and it is then registered for preservation for the future. Unfortunately, many couples who could enter such an agreement when they are together do not do so and the absence of parental rights and responsibilities for the father only becomes an issue if the couple separate. By that stage, the mother is unlikely to sign an agreement and sadly more often than not, the father has to seek an order from court.

Yet despite his absence from the birth certificate, things are not as bleak as they might seem for Tyrone. It is possible to apply to court in Scotland for an order called a 'declarator of parentage' if the mother denies paternity; in other words the court is shown to be satisfied that the man claiming to be the child's father is more likely than not what he says he is.

An unmarried father can also seek parental rights and responsibilities along with permission to see the child, known as a contact order. The legislation specifically requires the court to consider the impact of domestic abuse on the child so 'Kirsty' - whether in soapland or real life - might not be in as strong a position as she thinks.

Jennifer Gallagher
Partner - Family Law

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