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Having a Baby: Your Rights and Legal Responsibilities

This section covers the legal responsibilities of parents when a baby is born, namely registering the birth and obtaining a birth certificate.

In England and Wales, the birth of a baby must be registered within 42 days of the child being born. You can either do this at the hospital before the mother returns home or at a register office.

Who can register a birth?

The mother of a child can register the birth of her child on her own. If she was married to father at the time of conception or birth then both of the parents’ names will be recorded on the birth certificate.

Otherwise an unmarried father can only be named on the birth certificate if:

  • he goes to register the birth together with the mother
  • one parent goes to register the birth with a statutory declaration of acknowledgement of parentage made by the other parent
  • one parent goes to register the birth with a court order granting the father parental responsibility for the child

If the father was married to the mother at the time of conception or birth, he can register the birth on his own, and both names will be on the certificate.

If neither parent can register the birth in person, then certain other people can do it instead, such as:

  • someone who was present at the birth
  • someone who is responsible for the child
  • a member of the administrative staff at the hospital where the child was born

Same-sex parents

In order for a male same-sex couple to register themselves as the parents of a child, they must obtain a parental order from the court.

For female same-sex couples, the rules depend on whether the couple has entered into a civil partnership.

Either woman of a civil partnership can register the birth by herself if all of the following statements are true:

  • The mother had the child by donor insemination or fertility treatment.
  • She was in a civil partnership at the time of the treatment.
  • Her civil partner is the child’s legal parent.

If the mother of a child and her partner are not in a civil partnership, the partner can still be treated as the child’s legal parent if:

  • The couple conceived at a licensed clinic in the UK.
  • Both partners sign consent forms to that purpose.

For the partner of the mother to be named on the birth certificate, and therefore acquire parental responsibility, the couple must do one of the following:

  • register the birth jointly
  • complete a ‘statutory declaration of acknowledgement of parentage’ form, with one parent taking a copy when she registers the birth
  • obtain a document from a court giving the second parent responsibility and bring this to the registration of the birth

Registering the birth

When registering a birth you will need to ensure that you have all the necessary information about the birth.

The government says that you should know the:

  • place and date of the birth
  • name, surname and sex of the baby
  • parents’ names, surnames and address
  • places and dates of parents’ birth
  • date of parents’ marriage or civil partnership
  • parents’ jobs
  • mother’s maiden surname.

You should also bring some form of personal identification.

Getting a birth certificate

Once you register your baby’s birth, you will be issued a birth certificate for free. This will be the short version of the birth certificate which only contains the details of the baby and not those of the parents.

You will be able to get this short version of the birth certificate straight away if you register the birth in the area where your child was born. It you register if somewhere else, you will have to wait for a few days.

You can order a full birth certificate with details of the parents, or acquire additional copies from a register office, at any time.

Organisations to inform

The government operates the Tell Us Once service in selected areas, which can report the birth of your child to several of their organisations at once, saving you a lot of time. When you go to your Tell Us Once appointment you will need to have the personal details, including national insurance numbers, of anyone named on the birth register or any partner living in the same household.

As having a child will affect your entitlement to benefits, you will need to have details of any benefits you are receiving or have applied for, as well as any that anyone named on the birth register or living with you as a partner is receiving or has applied for.

If Tell Us Once is not available in your area, you will have to apply for Child Tax Credit separately and contact Jobcentre Plus about your benefits.

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