Members of the Legislative Council of the Isle of Man have given a third reading to an act which would give unmarried fathers living on the island parental responsibilities equal to married ones.
The bill was introduced by legislative council member Juan Turner. Mr Turner told members that while married fathers have rights and responsibilities which survive divorce, if an unmarried couple end their relationship, only the mother has automatic responsibility for the child, unless a court order is obtained or an agreement is signed. Therefore unmarried mothers may get no say in their child’s welfare, education or upbringing.
The legislation, described by Mr Turner as “long overdue”, would automatically grant parental responsibility to unmarried fathers on the island as long as they were named on the child’s birth certificate.
The Department of Social Care, Department of Education and Children, and the local family court’s welfare officers all expressed support for the bill.
The bill was approved unanimously by the council.
Council member Phil Braidwood said:
“Every child should have the opportunity to have access to both parents. This legislation will enshrine in law [that] the father has the responsibility as well and the child will have the opportunity to meet and have access to his father.”
Fathers in England and Wales became automatically entitled to parental responsibility providing they had signed the birth certificate in December 2003.