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Can I choose children´s religion?

Yes, but only if you hold Parental Responsibility for your child. Where two parents disagree over the choice of religious upbringing for their children, the considerations regarding the children´s welfare will prevail should the Court become involved in resolving the conflict.

A religion cannot be imposed on a child if the Court considered that the child would suffer harm as a result of following the religion´s tenets. As an example, if a religion stated that a follower shouldn´t receive modern medical treatment, the Court may decide the imposition of that belief could cause the child harm.

Can my children choose their own religion?

The Human Rights Act 1998 protects the children´s right to make their own decisions as it protects the individual´s right to the freedom of thought, conscience and religion. A child who is sufficiently mature to take the decision as to which religion they wish to follow may do so.

Is my consent required if my children wish to marry?

Where the child is aged between 16 and 18 they can only marry if all parties with parental responsibility agree unless the Court is approached to consider the matter as a Specific Issue.

Can anyone change my children´s name?

No, unless they have the agreement of all the parties with parental responsibility for the child or the Court gives permission by way of a Specific Issue Order.

Can my child leave home without my consent?

Children under the age of sixteen cannot leave home without parental consent.

Is corporal punishment legal?

Individuals with parental responsibility have the legal right to use "reasonable" physical punishment. It is illegal to punish a child to the extent that the child is a victim of battery, suffers grievous bodily harm, actual bodily harm or experiences punishment that could be considered to be cruelty. Essentially, if you have Parental Responsibility you can smack your child as a form of punishment, but if the smack leaves a mark you may be found guilty of causing actual bodily harm.

We strongly advise against corporal punishment. There are more effective way to manage your child´s behaviour, and we have seen the use of corporal punishment lead to reduced contact and the reversal of residence. It´s not worth the risk, and it´s not necessary. We support the NSPCC´s Full Stop Campaign.

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Michael Robinson © 2014

Family law information for parents whose children are resident in England and Wales

Crown Copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's printer for Scotland.

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