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Rea
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Hi, there has been a lot of stuff in the media lately concerned with fathers who are trying to get access to see their children. At my setting there are or have been children who, from looking at the child record sheets, have little or no contact with their dad's, while some forms have 'no information to dad' clearly written on. I wondered if these children are not having contact for reasons associated with perhapes domestic violence or abuse or whether it's merely that the mothers are being obstructive. I'm asking because my brother's wife has recently told him she wants a divorce and from that I started visiting the dads-uk site for advice and tips. It seems that there are a lot of women who stop the dad's seeing the children, but fail to see that they are stopping the children from seeing dad. I know that not all dad's are 'bad', but the lengths some women go to to deny access is mind boggling. Do any of you ask why dad is'nt on the contact form or why dad isnt allowed to collect? I dont as I've always felt it's a private issue, but now my family are in a position where this could happen to us I feel that I should ask, if only to talk to mom about the effect it could have on the child. It's a really emmotive subject, but I hate the thought that the children are being used by mom's to 'get back' at dad.

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I don't know a lot, but in most schools I've been in the general rule was that unless there was a court order preventing access by the natural father then we were not able to prevent him from e.g. collecting the child. Of course we would try to distract, follow school rules about disrupting classes, contact mum, call social services, police whatever but legally I didn't think we could actually prevent a non resident parent from access. I've had mums coming in saying "Under no circumstances etc etc etc" and had to explain that without a court order this was not enforceable by us. In several cases a few weeks later they'd all made up and the "Banned parent" was back on the scene again!!

 

Also shouldn't non resident parents have access to records/reports/letters concerning their child etc? All very inconvenient for the educatuional establishments if 2 sets were required per child.

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Rea,

 

You've raised a really good point here. It appears to be the norm that it is just accepted if one or other parent is not allowed contact or info if requested, but as catma says, we have no real rights without a CO. And, to be honest, although I'm appalled at the bad press men seem to be getting at the moment (what price equality!!) it's never really become a concrete thought that these can be instances of Mum being purely obstructive! Thank you for making me see my 'discomforts' through!!

 

Maybe you're right, that we should start querying such instructions, certainly for the sake of the children, if no one else. And before you all shout at me, obviously, where violence or other forms of abuse of any kind by either party are involved, this would need clarification.

 

Sue :D

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Thats exactly what I mean, are we just going with the flow when we agree to mom's terms? Shouldnt we ask 'why' more often? I bet in the majority of cases it's just 'sour grapes' and the mom really doesnt see that the child is losing out. As for a CO, I was told that it's up to the non resident parent to supply proof that they can collect rather than the other parent proving that they cant. All very confusing, especially now the law on unmarried parents has changed if the child was born after December 2003. I do think though, especially since reading posts on the dad-uk site that we are in a perfect position to make a difference to child/father contact. A post on there recently was about how dad's dont socialise with other dad's (unless it's in a pub or at a football match) Mom's arrange with other mom's to meet at the park, each others homes, play centres etc. I can feel an idea coming on me...coffee mornings for dad's only, bring your dad to playgroup day...

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I think you have raised a very valid point but feel it is an extremely sensitive issue and one that needs to be treated with caution.

 

The media have covered some heartbreaking stories of fathers desperate to see their children and denied the opportunity to do so by their ex. and whilst my heart goes out to them and i think it is terrible that some Mums use their children as some sort of pawn in an emotional game of chess there are many who don't.

 

I think to start questioning mums about the details they have given is somewhat an invasion of privacy or 'a step too far' and much as I would like to try and make a difference I feel as a practitioner it is not my place to do so.

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I totally understand your point of view Geraldine, but my feeling is, that where a mother is saying that a father cant collect a child or have any contact or information, are we not doing the father a diservice by not asking for information to uphold her request/demand? If a mother says dad cant collect and then dad turns up with a CO saying he can, are we being one sided in stalling, to check with mom? Why is there a general feeling in society that mom is right and dad (once he's not in the family home)automatically wrong? We had a child last year whose dad bought him to his induction day, but when mom filled out the forms his name wasnt on them and she expressly said that he was to have no information. I'd like to know why? Is it a case of obstruction or a valid reason? Like I said before this is an emotive subject and I understand that there will be many different views, I'd just like to understand them more clearly.

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I think every case is different!

 

I do see what you mean about the court orders etc but I think any order would say that the father has access and that it does not specifically say he can collect a child from nursery. I am not sure of the legal terms but many years ago I became a single mum to four very small children when my husband left. I was determined to do all in my power to ensure my children continued to have a relationship with their Dad. I was not going to allow any judge to issue a court order saying when my ex could see the children. We had joint custody with full access to my ex.

Sadly, he decided not to continue seeing the children, he moved with no forwarding address and all my attempts to trace him failed. As weeks turned into months I suddenly realised that he may decide to turn up at school and collect the children - he could do so legally and could show a court order saying he had full access. I went to see the Head and asked that they did not let the children be collected by him under any circumstances. Thankfully they agreed. If they had done as you suggest then he could have turned up and taken them anywhere!

 

As it happened the situation never arose but I was extremely grateful for the support of the school staff during a very difficult time.

 

I am not trying to be argumentative and really support your idea :D but just think the practicalities of implementing it could inflame situations that are already sensitive and may be seen by mums as an invasion of privacy. :o

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Hey, Geraldine, thanks!

 

That's exactly the type of thing that was at the back of my mind, but couldn't think of examples. Sheltered life, etc.

 

You are quite right to make the points you do. It's a difficult situation, hey??

 

Any one else with some input here?

 

Sue :D

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Hi -

I don't want to voice an opinion here. Just want to say how marvellous the tone of this debate is!

 

It's an emotive and serious subject, and the way everyone has engaged with it is fabulous. Acknowledging points of view and putting others forward, but avoiding the pitfall of believing one person is the holder of the only common sense view - how good is that?

 

Many thanks for such an interesting topic and set of views! :)

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Hi Sue and thank you!! :D

 

Didn't think my message was all that clear!

 

I think the legal terms have changed now, it used to be joint or sole custody and then defined access ( every other sunday at 2pm or whatever!) or unlimited access but now think there are residency orders and others I am not sure about.

 

I just think a court order could only specify residency and/or access and if the mother is granted residency and the dad has access I dont think that entitles him to collect children from school! It entitles him to see and keep in touch with his children either as detailed in the court order or by arrangement with the mother and if mum tells school dad cannot collect then i don't see that the court order showing he has access, gives school staff the right to let him take the children or am i being thick??!!! :D

 

Going back to the point of us changing things - I would not have been amused if school staff had started telling me how my children needed to see their father!!

I was well aware of that! but then there are some men who walk away and my ex is one of them! Father to four children and in the 17 years since he left not so much as a birthday card to any of my children (Oh and no maintenance either but thats another story!)

 

As is the case with many 'topics' there are two sides of the coin. For every dad fighting to see his children I bet there is one who doesnt care, doesnt want to know etc - sad I know! :o

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I was on a child protection course last year and I'm fairly sure that the advice given was that in the event of any parent with no discernable legal reason why not, wanted to take their child, then ultimately there was not a lot we could do to prevent them if they physically took the child. We can't really wrestle a child from another adult who does, as far as we would know, have parental rights. If a mother didn't want her partner to have access wouldn't that have to be granted by the courts? Without a CO that is equal to saying access is OK surely if they have parental responsibility. (I'm very uncertain here, just playing around with the logic of the thing so don't all shout at me!!!! :oxD )

 

I do have notes from the course about the need to have clear induction/registration policies: getting information about who has parental responsibility legally, who are the named carers, having named persons for collection but this is often sensitive information that is difficult to find out, even when the child's protection is the issue. I've also been in the situation where parents have stated who can collect and then sent all sorts of different people, who get quite shirty when I question them/phone the parent etc just so I am sure it's OK.

 

It's a minefield that's for sure :(

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I'm still gnawing away at the idea of gaining info. I know it's basically intrusive and I would probably go ballistic if it were me in the position of being questioned on what is basically a very private matter, .....

 

Perhaps it's down to making parents/carers comfortable with us as practitioners, so that they feel they can share info. trust in our confidentiality, caring for the whole experience of the child... maybe I'm losing some of you, very aware that Teachers are not Nursery Nurses. I'm a NN and feel the need to reiterate that our basic belief/raison d'etre was basically to care, then to educate. That seems to have been lost recently, but then, that's a different discussion!

 

Just a thought, there!

 

Sue :D

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I think we need to remember that single mums are single for numerous reasons: divorced, separated, widows,etc and in our setting one mum who had a 'very short relationship' which resulted in an unplanned, unexpected pregnancy. I take my hat off to her that she has kept her child and is doing her utmost to be a brilliant mum to her son. 'Dad' was off the scene before she knew she was pregnant and there is no hope of any future contact or support from him. All very sad but not unique in this day and age.

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Good point Sue :D

 

Sharing info. trusting us and our ability to maintain confidentiality etc is SOOOOO

important :D

 

Caring for the whole child has to be paramount :D If Mum is stressed for whatever reason it can impact on her child and through really good parent/practitioner relationships perhaps there IS a way we can make a difference :D

 

Going back to basics, building relationships that are mutually strong enough that hopefully mums will feel able to volunteer info/confide in us and then we may be able to do something :D

 

Oh dear I know what I mean but doubt it makes sense, better be quiet now! :o

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I realise there are very many issues surrounding this, a friend of mine 14 years ago split with her partner and then he started sending her letters from a solicitor saying he was going to get custody, this after not wanting to see his daughter. She would of been in the same situation as you Geraldine if her child had been at school, so I understand how you would of wanted to keep the father away from the school. In recent years he's conntacted her only twice and then changed his mind about seeing his daughter at the last minute. I merely want to find a way of protecting the child's interests as well as the mothers. As Sue R says, in a nursery (playgroup) our main belief is the 'care' of the child, which may be at odds with the established education view? As Sue also points out, it's down to us to establish a trusting and open relationship with the mother so any information is given with a shared concern for the child. I hope we always do this as a matter of course, but by asking for information about why a father cant collect or have information we could be protecting ourselves, a partner who is excluded from the child's life because of violence or abuse would surely rate higher on our 'beware' list than a father who is excluded for reasons known only to the mother.

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Interesting thoughts everyone and so difficult to determine.

 

I think to some extent the answers are as unique as each individual situation.

 

I have had children in my class for whom access to Dad is supposedly restricted and yet they talk of their contact and are seen out with him!

We always gave end of year reports to any single mums for Dad though!

 

My sister's husband recently left her and her 3 children and she has fallen over herself to give him and the children access to one another but has refused over night contact as the children do not want to go. She meanwhile needs to cut all contact with him to enable her to start to heal from the rejection she feels and continues to feel every time he leaves, so I can understand why 'mums' try to minimise contact. In other aspects of the situation it certainly feels like he is the winner. xD

 

And what do you do when the parent demanding access pulls a knife out, as was the unfortunate position a friend found herself in a few months ago? :o

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Hi Susan

 

I empathise with the rejection you talk of even after all these years! At the time it was such that my dearest wish was to never have to have see 'him' again, to be left alone to pick up the pieces and make a life for myself and my children. Reality told me this was not possible, I could never hurt my children by severing contact as he was their father and they adored him, as it turned out I got my wish but what a high price was paid :o

 

However bad things seem at the time there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and my 'children' are happy, well adjusted adults. If you believe the media they should, due to the fact they come from a 'broken home' be long since off the rails in all sorts of ways but they aren't :D

 

\several years ago I met my 'knight in shining armour' who accepted I came with four children or not at all and perhaps his role is best summed up by a mug one of the lads gave him on fathers day which said "Any man can be a father, it takes someone special to be a Dad!"

 

Hope everything works out for your sister and Rea's brother :D

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Very shiny armour Geraldine, not many men would be able to do that. As to what Susan said about her friend, knowing why dad isnt allowed to collect etc could help us to avoid situations like this or if not avoid, be more prepared for them in some small way. I remember you posting when that happened Susan, hope your friend has got over the truma she would surely of experienced. I do know some men who are like your ex Geraldine, my husbands friend wouldnt take his children away for a weekend because he said it would only be an opportunity for his ex to be alone with her new boyfriend! That attitude totally baffled my husband.

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I have frequently had to deal with this issue working in inner city London where there are many 'unconventional ' relationships. I believe the law is quite clear: If parents are married and there is no court order restricting access then we as practitioners are breaking the law if we prevent a parent taking their child. If either parent wishes to restrict that right then they have to gain a court order. Where the parents are unmarried then one or other or both parents will have parental responsibility. Entry forms to your setting should make it clear who has parental responsibilty.

If as is often the case say the mother has parental responsibility she can withdraw permission for the father to collect on his own. We usually ask for that to be put in writing. It is sad that often parents use access to the children as a stick during relationship breakdown but I have found that often by explaining both the law and asking for confirmation in writing will make a parent think twice about what they are doing and whether it is what they really want. More often than not a verbal request is made after a row with the partner/ex and once they pause to think about it and reflect they change their minds. If it is a case of a violent partner then court orders are the way to go. In cases where a parent is worried about abduction to another country the police are very good and will issue alerts if a parent has a serious concern.

 

Hope that helps. Being clear about parental responsibility is not prying - it is part of our responsibility as carers of other poeples children to be clear about the law.

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Thanks for that androyd, it helps to know the law, I sometimes feel that as practitioners we are told what to do or not to do but without the hard evidnce of the law to back us up it can be daunting to approach this area. In practice though I've read of many dad's who are kept out of their childrens lives partly through the mother and partly through their own fear at stirring up trouble for themselves. Basically, dad's who have access issues will do anything to keep their ex partner happy and if that means not seeking to see the children when they know the ex wouldnt want them too, or in a place she considers 'hers' then they will stay away. They will go through the legal channels but not do anything else. Kissing a*s is how some have described the process, keep her happy at all costs or you could lose what access you DO have. It seems that in reality the 'equal' that the law refers to in the caes of children in divorce and seperation, is the 'equal' as in ''Animal Farm''.

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Wow what a topic..................

 

Geraldine i whole heartidly agree with everything you say, Probably because our situations sound very similar.......

 

I was not married to my childrens father (so luckily parential responsibility is soley mine) but in the beginning i wanted him to stay and have as much contact as possible, they were only 8 and 5 at the time.

 

Over the next few months, bucket loads of tears etc he kept either forgetting, letting the children down not turning up etc, so i said maybe we should do it witha soloicitor so that everyone new where they stood. That was it 5 years have now gone past with not even a letter, i too informed my childrens school that if thier father turned up i wanted them to ring me straight away (luckily again im only 3 minutes away), and with the parental responsibilty on my side they agreed.

 

Im not saying that if he turned up today i would stop the children from seeing him IF THEY WANTED TOO, but as you say Geraldine my knight in shining armour came along and my children too bought him a mug saying 'any man can be a father but it takes someone special to be a dad'......and that is so true.

 

:D:o:D

 

Back to work i also agree its a very tricky situation and have only had one mum say 'if their father turns up dont ket him have them' - which luckily he never did, (i would have rung mum if he did though)but we have passwords for 'other people' picking up children who are unknown to us.... xD

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It's a very difficult subject as every case is different. Just a cautionary tale though - in my second year of teaching I had a dad turn up and take his three year old daughter to a 'dental appointment'. There was no court order, so we delayed a little, but had to let her go and luckily got hold of the mother on the phone. The dad was stopped at Heathrow airport, with tickets for himself and the child. It was nail-biting and very frightening.

 

If a parent is going to abduct the child it is likely that he or she will seem very plausible. You need to know exactly the legal situation with each child, and discuss it with the custodial parent so that there is no confusion.

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I have been looking into and discussing the legalities on this issue today.

 

I have no wish to start a debate on the laws but they vary depending on circumstances.

 

A single mum who has never been married to the childs father is in a very different postiion to a married couple who are divorced/separated.

 

In the first the father has no parental rights, end of story! (unless he has been to court to obtain a parental responsibility order or he has a signed parental responsibility agreement )

 

As far as I can see the situation for divorced/separted parents is clear. One parent will have a residence order (usually mum) and dad could have a contact order.

 

The contact order will specify 'reasonable contact' or in some cases defined contact.

 

It is quite rare but some couples do have a 'split residence order' and this is usually that Mums have the child mon- fri and dad has overnight weekend contact - this can stipulate that he collects the child from school on friday and returns to school on monday morning.

 

Regardless of fathers having a contact order it is the parent who has the residence order who has authority over the day to day care of the child and if this is mum and she chooses to ask school not to allow dad to collect we should abide by her instructions. The only exception would be dad having a defined contact order that specifies collection of children from school. An order saying he has reasonable contact is not sufficient for us to decide to let the child go with him. ( I am talking of course in cases where mum has said no to this!)

 

I have found this so interesting and have discovered information I was unaware of. The only grey area would be a couple who are recently separated and no residence order has yet been granted, i think that would neeed very sensitive handling as understandably parents emotions would be running high.

 

Finally lets all hope that we never have the frightening experience Nicola spoke of and thanks again Rea for starting this thread, things are alot clearer to me now!

 

For me (and this is just a personal view) if I have any doubt whatsoever then the child doesn't go!! and yes I have been in the situation recently when a grandfather turned up out of the blue to collect a child, he was not on the list of authorised adults on the registration form and there was no way the child was going out the door! I apologised profusely to Grandad and explained my postion, he wasnt too pleased but when it was all sorted he was actually very grateful and quite impressed that I was so thorough in checking him out!!!

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Well found out Geraldine!! That's great info. On the issue of asking for "Sensitive" information and is it our place, I don't see asking for parental responsibility clarification as any more intrusive than have you refugee status/what languages do you speak, does your child have SEN/medical needs etc...it is just one of the things we DO need to know to be secure surely?

 

I have a friend who has a son, now aged about 7. He wasn't married to the mother. She cut him out completely shortly after he was born and he has had no contact/news or anything and I know how much that hurt him. He's married now and has 2 children. I wonder if they will ever get to know their half brother? I would like to think so.

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So, by asking questions of the mother as to why dad isnt allowed to collect we aren't being merely nosy. It's always helpful to know something of the story, a few years ago a parent was very insistant that no photos be taken of her child for any reason, she explained that her parents were like Rose and Fred West, and it was for this reason that she wished to protect her children from anything and everything. She volunteered the information, and although I would most definitley abided by her wishes, knowing some background made me more alert to parents coming in with cameras on their mobile phones at the same time.

I hadnt thought of the mothers need to keep away from the father though, as Geraldine and Hali pointed out. But as androyd says, if we stop a parent from taking a child without having seen a CO then we are breaking the law, merely on the say so of the other parent who may have an axe to grind or who may genuinely wish to keep away from the ex themselves. I propose when term starts to review our records and speak to the parent, obviously what I say will depend on the relationship I've got with the parent, but I do think that knowing a little background would help should dad ever turn up. He may be refused from collecting/having contact due to violence and we could find our selves in a situation like Susan's friend, he could be of a different nationality and try to leave the country, or it could be sour grapes on the part of mom. I think I would prefer to know.

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This is such an interesting topic!! And yes, I'm finding out loads, too! Thanks Nicola for your cautionary tale!!!!! And thanks Geraldine for all your researching!! (And rea for starting us off.....this is going to sound like an Oscar speech in a minute!)

 

I too have had to 'check folks out', and, while being initially irritated, every single one of them has been grateful for the care and protection afforded the children involved. Keep on doing it!!

 

Sue :D

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Geraldine,

I too looked into the legalities of this issue when OFSTED told me I should state clearly on my registration forms the "Parental rights" of the mother and father.

 

Now when I do a home visit for registration of a child, if the parents were not married WHEN THE CHILD WAS BORN then I explain the term "Parental rights" and then gain mothers permission for dad to collect, unless a written statement from the mother gives the father shared parental right- (I'm not sure if this has to be witnessed by a solicitor)

 

If the parents marry after the child is born the mother is still the only person with parental right, unless a written statement from the mother gives the father shared parental right- (again-I'm not sure if this has to be witnessed by a solicitor)

 

No mother in these circumstances has said they want to give written consent to shared parental rights, they have just put the boyfriend / husband / father as a person with permission to collect from preschool.

 

A mother once asked me not to allow the father to collect his son from preschool, this was before I knew of parental rights, I just asked for her to put it in writing because the father played a large part in his sons life and used to collect him often. When asked to put her request in writing she came back the following day, having thought it through and decided the father could still have access to collection.

 

I have experienced various situations that others have:- I was a single parent, the father not wanting to know his son, left me when my son was 6 weeks old after an 8 yr relationship. The woman he left me for had a child 2 weeks after my son was born and later in life my son attended the same infant class as his half sister. It was then he became aware of who his 'biological' dad was.

 

My sister had very bad experiences with her husband (now ex) who controlled and abused her over many, many years. When he divorced my sister the courts gave him the residency order to keep my nephew. However, she stayed with him after their divorce ( she felt she had nowhere else to go). She eventually left him, taking her son ( against the residency order- to a refuge). He is currently serving 6 yrs for child abuse on an 8 yr old girl :o My sister and nephew are near their family now and looking forward to a more stable future.

 

When I met my 'knight in shining armour' my husband, he was a single parent to his two children (son & daughter) his wife left him 'to find herself' and my husband kept the children. All credit to his ex wife who had the courage and strength to recognise that the children (then aged 10 & 12yrs) would be better off emotionaly as well as financially with their father. The childrens future was agreed out of court, mum had total access since the divorce and we have all worked hard together as parents, step parents, divorced and newly married people forever keeping the childrens care our priority.

It's not been easy nor has it been too hard, the children are all adults now and still have all of us in their lifes :)

 

Peggy

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Peggy,

Thank you for sharing that! It's great to see such a people-affirming story, at a time when all seems dispute after dispute. I think the children involved in your particular tale have been fortunate to have received such a positive start, and all credit to you adults, for being truly grown up!!

 

Sue :D

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Gosh Peggy I have never heard of OFSTED requesting such information on registration forms. :o I can feel a re-check of our forms coming on, maybe in view of the advice on here we have been a bit lapse in this area :(

 

A child who has now left our nursery lived with his unmarried parents and younger sister. The issue of them not being married was not discussed in any detail, they both appeared on the reigstration form with different surnames living at the same address ( child had dads surname) Mum and Dad visited prior to registration and either of them delivered and/or collected the child - it never entered my head to ask for any written permission from the mother xD Surely this wouldn't be necessary or would it :( They were living very happily as a family unit but for whatever reason chose not to marry.

 

Glad to hear you found a 'knight' too, and your experience is an example to us all - :D

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