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Parents who have a child outside of a relationship automatically have joint parental responsibility

In principle, all children born from and including 1 January 2020 have parents with joint parental responsibility. This applies to children whose parents are married, children whose parents are cohabitants, and children whose parents do not live together.

Prior to 2020, the mother had sole parental responsibility if the parents were not married or did not live together when the child was born.

Parental responsibility entails a right and obligation to make decisions that apply to the child’s personal circumstances, for example, choice of name, membership in a religion, consent to medical treatment, application for a passport and right to make decisions for the child regarding financial matters.

The statutory provision enables the mother to refuse joint parental responsibility by a specified deadline. People who have children outside of a relationship are a diverse group, which means that joint parental responsibility will not always be in the child’s best interests. For example, it may be the case that the father does not wish to have contact with the child, he has been issued with a restraining order, or the child is the result of rape. A rule that is too far-reaching could also result in women not wanting to disclose the identity of the child’s father.

In such cases, mothers who wish to have sole parental responsibility must report this to the National Population Register within one year from when paternity was determined (or from when the child was born if paternity was clarified at that time). Fathers may also give notice to the National Population Register by the same deadline if they do not wish to have parental responsibility.

Fathers who are not granted parental responsibility as a result of the mother’s notification will, as before, have to bring an action before the courts to be granted parental responsibility. The judge will place decisive emphasis on the child’s best interests in the specific instance.