My wife went vegan. Who decides our children’s food choices?
When a relationship breaks down and there are children involved, it is not only the issue of who the children will live with which can cause disputes. Parents also find themselves in discussions about everything from the school or nursery a child should attend to the type of diet they should follow.
If both parents have parental responsibility for the child and disagree on these kinds of issues, who has the final say? We take a closer look.
What is parental responsibility?
The Children Act 1989 defines parental responsibility as:
“All the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”.
Who has parental responsibility?
Mothers automatically acquire parental responsibility from birth.
Fathers normally have parental responsibility if they are either:
- Married to the mother of the child when the child is born; or
- Listed on the birth certificate of the child (from 1 December 2003).
A father can also acquire parental responsibility by entering a parental responsibility agreement with the mother or obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order from the courts.
What if we disagree about our children’s food choices?
If you cannot come to an agreement between yourselves about whether your child should follow a vegan diet, there is help available. For example, mediation, in which an independent third party aids discussions between two parties with the aim of helping them to reach an agreement, could help you to agree on your children’s food choices.
Alternatively, you could attempt family counselling, with your children involved if they are old enough, to try to agree on a way forward.
If an agreement cannot be reached or these methods are not suitable for your family, it may be a good idea to seek advice from a family solicitor, who can advise you on your options and negotiate with the other parent on your behalf.
Specific Issue Orders
A Specific Issue Order is a type of court order which addresses a specific issue on which two parents disagree. Parents may choose to apply for this court order if they are unable to agree on a specific issue in relation to their child’s upbringing. This might include whether a child should be vaccinated, which kind of school they should attend or whether they can be taken on a holiday.
A judge can then determine the issue and set out their decision in a Specific Issue Order.
However, it’s worth noting that Specific Issue Orders are not suitable in all circumstances. In the case of a disagreement over a vegan diet, it is unlikely that a court would rule to either impose or prevent a specific diet unless either option would cause harm or significant problems for the child.
In situations such as this, resolving the issue via mediation, counselling or solicitor-led negotiation would generally be the best approach.
If you are struggling to reach an agreement with the other parent of your child about an aspect of your child’s upbringing, get in touch to book your free consultation with one of our experienced family lawyers today, to find out how we can help.