Having a baby is an exciting time, and among the joy of a new baby it is easy to forget about the legal side of things in among the sleepless nights, feeds and changing nappies. There are however five key things which all new parents have to take care of.
1) Registering a Birth
Many larger hospitals make it easy for you to register your new baby by having registrars coming into the hospital wards. If this does not happen in your area, you have 42 days (6 weeks) after the birth to get along to the register office in the district where the baby was born to register them. If the parents are married, either the mother or father can register their child. If the parents are unmarried, a mother can register alone but the father has to accompany her if he wants his details on the certificate. No documentation is required in order to register a babyâ€™s birth.
2) Naming Your Child
Most parents have chosen a name for their baby well before the 6 weeks deadline to register the birth comes into effect. In the UK we have fairly liberal laws regarding baby names and unless a name is obscene or offensive, a registrar cannot refuse it. Parents have 12 months after the birth to change their minds about their babyâ€™s given name, and this can be done by completing a form. Many parents choose to hold a christening, baptism or naming ceremony for their baby, but this is not a legal requirement.
3) Birth Certificates
When you register your childâ€™s birth, you will be given an abbreviated form of the birth certificate which just states the childâ€™s name, date and place of birth free of charge. This is the certificate needed to apply for Child Benefit. A longer version of the birth certificate which shows details of parents will be needed to apply for passports or driving licence, and can be obtained at any time from the register office.
4) Baby Born Abroad
If a baby is born overseas to British parents, the birth must be registered with either the British High Commission or the British Consul. They will issue a birth certificate which establishes the childâ€™s nationality and enables the parents to apply for a British passport for them in the future. Some countries will also have their own local requirements regarding registration of births.
Not everyone born in the UK automatically qualifies for British citizenship. A baby born in the UK is British if at least one of their parents is a British citizen or has legally settled here. A baby born overseas may qualify for British citizenship but it will depend on what status their parents have. UK citizens can have dual nationality with another state, but this situation can be complex and if there is any doubt over the citizenship of you, your partner or your new baby, consult the UK Border Agency for advice and guidance as soon as possible.