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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

26 SEP 2011

'Bodies in the Shadows': joint birth registration, parental responsibility and social class [2009] CFLQ 267

The government has marked its intention to ensure that whenever possible both biological parents register the birth of their child, thus making joint birth registration the default position in law. The main concern is to encourage the current numbers of sole registered and unmarried births to become joint registered ones, thereby making it possible to identify and attribute parental responsibility to a wider range of men as fathers. There are a number of themes present in the White Paper's ministerial foreword which it is important to consider in terms of gendered power relations and also in terms of social class. This article critically reflects upon the move to mandatory joint registration by drawing upon these two theoretical lenses and also upon academic literature and social policy on parental responsibility more broadly. The themes outlined in the foreword include mothers' and fathers' rights in respect of registration, the concomitant attribution of paternal responsibilities and the interests of children in having fathers actively involved in their children's lives. Questions will therefore be addressed to the significance and purpose of the reform proposals, the relationship between them, the attribution of rights and responsibilities to mothers, fathers and to child welfare and the targeting of and impact upon the more socially vulnerable members of society.

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