Jade’s Law: A Welcome Restriction to Parental Responsibility

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Jade’s Law: A Welcome Restriction to Parental Responsibility

Parental Responsibility (’PR’) is defined by statute as the rights, duties, powers, responsibility and authority that a parent of a child has in relation to the child and their property. This gives those with PR the right to make decisions with regards to a child’s lifestyle and wellbeing, including schooling, medical decisions and cultural upbringing.

PR may be acquired in a number of ways. Mothers automatically get PR upon the birth of the child, fathers on the other hands will only automatically acquire PR if they are married to the mother at the time of birth. Otherwise, fathers will only acquire PR if they are named on the child’s birth certificate. It is possible to apply for PR if you do not automatically have it.

Typically, PR would terminate in distinct circumstances, the most common being the child attaining the age of 18. There are however circumstances in which it is appropriate for PR to be terminated prematurely. Typically, where the relationship between the parent and child is of such harm to the child or indeed the other parent that it would not be acceptable for the offending parent to maintain their PR. Presently, PR can only be removed by way of a court order following an application under the Children Act 1989. This is often costly and potentially allows the offending parent to continue any abuse through the litigation process.

It was announced yesterday that The Victims and Prisoners Bill (presently at the report stage in the House of Commons) will be amended to automatically suspend PR for parents who are convicted of murder or voluntary manslaughter of a person with whom they have children. The Ministry of Justice have confirmed that there will be an automatic exemption in cases where domestic abuse victims have killed their abuser.

This bill, when enacted, will prevent offending individuals from making key decisions in their child’s life.

This change to the law will be known as Jade’s Law in memory of Jade Ward who was tragically killed by her former partner. Jade’s family are continuously contacted by her former partner, who is serving a life sentence, for updates in relation to the children they shared together. Her family have been campaigning for an update in the law to prevent these rights from continuing.

Please note this news was provided yesterday via a Ministry of Justice Press briefing. This article was last updated 4 October 2023 and accordingly, there may be updates for up to date information regarding The Victims and Prisoners Bill. Please see the Government website for the most up to date information.

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