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Unmarried parents urged to check law after latest birth stats

For the first time since records began in 1845, babies born to mothers who are not married or in a civil partnership outnumbered those born to married mums.

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show there were 624,828 live births across England and Wales in 2021 (28,781 in Wales). Of these, 304,706 were born in a marriage or civil partnership.

Meanwhile, there were 320,713 live births outside of a marriage or civil partnership, representing a cultural shift and one that could have legal implications for parents, lawyers say.

They say many parents don’t know their marital status could impact their children’s futures, particularly if the parents split.

Dal Heran, head of family law at Wright Hassall, said: “The mother has automatic parental responsibility for her child and this responsibility is also granted to fathers that are married to the mother.

“However, if a child is born outside of marriage, then a partner must be registered on the birth certificate to be given parental responsibility – failing to do so can cause serious issues later down the line if the parents separate and a child contact dispute arises.

“There is also the issue of financial provision for children following a separation, which is currently governed by the Child Maintenance Service irrespective of whether parents are married or not.

“The issue of where parents and children will live is usually settled in conjunction with divorce proceedings, so the same does not apply for unmarried parents during a breakup”.

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