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Q&As: parental responsibility

One of my patients is divorcing his wife and has now requested access to his children's medical records. He claims that

although he was unmarried at the time of his children's birth, he acquired parental responsibility for them by subsequently marrying the mother. Is this correct?

The natural mother has automatic parental responsibility, unless it is removed by the courts, which is very rare.

The father does not automatically have parental responsibility for any of his natural children that were born to his wife before they married. (The law changed in this respect on 1 December 2003 and since that time a child born to an unmarried father, who agrees to be named as the father on the birth certificate, automatically acquires parental responsibility.)

The father may, however, obtain parental responsibility in a number of ways (see bullet points below) including subsequently marrying the child's mother. A father who had acquired parental responsibility in this way would only

lose some or all of that responsibility if the court ordered it, or when the child reached the age

of 18.

The BMA guidance on the subject states quite clearly: 'Both of a child's legal parents have parental responsibility if they were married at the time of the child's conception or at some time thereafter.'

It is important to remember that even quite young children may be Gillick competent and therefore may have legal capacity to consent or dissent to disclosure of their confidential medical records. In addition, you must always take into account your legal and professional obligation to act at all times in the child's best interests.

In a contentious divorce situation it would be worth checking with your medical defence organisation if there is any doubt about the wisdom of providing access to the records.

Acquired parental responsibility: an unmarried father can acquire parental responsibility by:

•applying for and getting a residence order

•applying to the court for a Parental Responsibility order

•making a parental responsibility agreement (in a set procedure) with the mother

•being appointed the child's guardian (once the appointment takes effect)

•subsequently marrying the mother of the child.

Step-parents do not acquire parental responsibility on marriage, but they do have a responsibility to safeguard the welfare of any step-children in their care, and are responsible for the maintenance of a step-child where a marriage means the step-child is a 'child of the family' (ie,

a child who has been treated as a member of

the family.

A step-parent may acquire parental responsibility by:

•obtaining a residence order

•adopting the child.

Must I go SOLO?

Q. I am a salaried doctor working in a practice and separately do a few out-of-hours sessions. I understand I must use a SOLO form to record these for superannuation purposes. Where can I obtain one?

A. You should be able to get the SOLO form from your PCT . Alternatively you can download it from www.nhspa.gov.uk/

GPCompletionForms/GPSOLO.pdf

The form is a two-page document, and detailed instructions are provided on how to complete it.

Wessex LMCs

Neither Pulse nor Wessex LMCs can accept any legal liability in respect of the answers given – you should seek independent legal advice before acting on the information concerned

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