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Unmarried fathers required to register on child's birth certificate

Date:11 NOV 2009
WED 11/11/2009 - Children's Minister Dawn Primarolo launched a consultation yesterday on new rules aimed at ensuring that wherever possible births are registered by both parents.

Current arrangements mean unmarried mothers can choose whether or not to register the name of a baby's father on their birth certificate. Currently around 7% of births - on average 45,000 a year - are registered with only one parent. The new regulations, made under the Welfare Reform Bill, will mean that in most cases, both unmarried parents will be required to register their names on their child's birth certificate.

The Minister said that she wants to promote parental responsibility from the very beginning by requiring both parents to register in this way.

"The traditional family unit has been changing for many years, we know children thrive in a diverse range of family backgrounds but inevitably they do better when both parents are involved in their upbringing," the Minister said.

"We want to move away from a separated partner becoming the 'invisible parent' in a child's life and through registering at this key milestone in their child's life both parents can make a long-term commitment to the child."

Exemptions will be made for circumstances where it is not possible, practical or advisable to have this direct link to the father. A man will only be named as the father on the birth certificate if both parents agree that he is the father. If either of them does not agree that he is, then his name will not be included. Where parents are separated, not co-operating or no longer in contact at the time of the child's birth, parents will be able to give the required information separately to register the birth.

The Welfare Reform Bill, which includes new provisions for the registration of births by unmarried parents, is expected to receive Royal Assent later this month. Schedule 6 of the Bill includes provisions which amend the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 in order to allow a process to be set up which has the effect of requiring parents who are not married to each other to both provide information for the registration of their child's birth.

The legislation and regulations will be supported by a public awareness campaign, so that parents are clear about what is expected of them. The Minister said that information and guidance, for both parents and registrars, will be developed in consultation with parenting organisations and children's charities.

The consultation sets out how the information can and should be collated and is aimed principally at registrars. The Joint Birth Registration regulations will only affect unmarried parents, the majority of whom already choose to register both names at birth. They are expected to come into effect from January 2011.

The consultation closes on Tuesday 2 February 2010 and can be accessed by clicking here.