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Family Law

Parental Responsibility

To be legally entitled to make decisions about all aspects of your child’s upbringing, you must have Parental Responsibility. Mothers automatically have this right, but fathers may not. There are circumstances in which other people, such as step-parents, might also wish to apply for Parental Responsibility. Whatever your situation, our experts at Davisons can help you.

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What is parental responsibility?

Under the Children Act 1989, Parental Responsibility is defined 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.’ Parental Responsibility ends typically when a child is 18 years old.

There are several rights that constitute Parental Responsibility. These include having a say in a child’s name, education, religion and medical treatment.

Parental Responsibility also gives a parent the right to information about their child. This includes but is not limited to access to their children’s school reports and information about any medical treatment they may need.


Who has parental rights?

The following people have Parental Responsibility:

  • Birth mothers
  • Fathers who are married to the mother when the child is born or who are registered on the child’s birth certificate
  • Same-sex civil partners if they were civil partners at the time of fertility treatment

A person without Parental Responsibility does not have any legal right to make decisions regarding a child or to obtain information about them.

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When might you need to apply for parental responsibility?

Many circumstances may warrant someone to apply for Parental Responsibility for a child. Please find below some examples:

A biological father who is not married to the mother and registered on a child’s birth certificate will not have parental responsibility.

To acquire parental responsibility, the father can do one of the following:

  • Re-register the child’s birth with the registry office if the mother agrees
  • Make a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the child’s mother
  • Apply to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order

Step-parents can acquire parental responsibility by:

  • Entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the parents who already have parental responsibility for the child
  • Applying for a Parental Responsibility Order from the court

Grandparents, family members and others may be able to obtain Parental Responsibility for a child by:

  • Obtaining a Child Arrangements Order. This type of order sets out with whom a child lives and who they spend time with. The person, the child, lives with will have Parental Responsibility for the child for the duration of the order
  • Being appointed as the child’s guardian because the parents have died
  • Being appointed as a special guardian. This is when a biological parent keeps Parental Responsibility under the law, but the special guardian takes over these responsibilities and can override the parent’s decisions if they disagree with them
  • Adoption. Adoptive parents automatically receive Parental Responsibility from birth parents

Parental Responsibility Agreement or Parental Responsibility Order?

If you do not have Parental Responsibility for a child, our solicitors can draw up a Parental Responsibility Agreement or apply to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order.

Parental Responsibility Agreement

This is a quicker and more cost-effective way of obtaining Parental Responsibility than applying for a court order. If all those who have Parental Responsibility agree, they simply sign the document, which will be registered and legally binding.

Parental Responsibility Order

If those who already have parental responsibility do not consent to giving you Parental Responsibility, you can apply for a court order. For example, you must have a solid connection with the child as their father, step-parent, or second same-sex parent. The court’s decision will be based on the child’s best interests.

When can parental rights be removed?

Under the Family Law Act 1975, parents have shared parental responsibility for their children when they separate. That means they do not have to consult with each other over day-to-day decisions, but they should do so when making large decisions.

Courts rarely grant one parent sole parental responsibility for a child. If parents cannot agree over important issues such as those relating to a child’s health, the court may grant sole responsibility to one parent for decisions relating to that single issue.

Only in extreme circumstances will a court take parental rights from one parent and grant sole responsibility to the other. When a child or a family are in danger of serious physical or emotional harm, then the court will step in to protect them.

Under the law, parental responsibility cannot be removed from a biological father who was married to the mother at the time of their child’s birth. However, a Child Arrangements Order or a Prohibited Steps Order can be put in place to limit his right to exercise parental responsibility to protect the child.


Davisons parental responsibility solicitors

If you are a father without parental responsibility, a step-parent, or a relative caring for a child, you may wish to consider obtaining parental responsibility. Parental responsibility enables you to make decisions in the best interests of the child you love.

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Parental Responsibility FAQs

If you fall into one of the following categories, you have parental responsibility for your child:

• The birth mother of your child.
• The father who is married to the mother when the child was born or who is registered on the child’s birth certificate.
• Same sex civil partners if you were civil partners at the time of the fertility treatment.
• Have a Court order from the Court confirming your parental responsibility (a Parental Responsibility Order).
• Have a parental responsibility agreement in place where all parties who have parental responsibility have agreed for you to have the parental responsibility of the child.

You would need to make an application at Court for a Parental Responsibility Order. In order to succeed in your application, you must have a “strong” connection with the child as the child’s father, step-parent or same-sex parent for example. The Court will always ensure that they consider what would be in the child’s best interest.

With parental responsibility, you have the right to make important decisions which relate to your child. These will include:

• Decisions relating to your child’s education, e.g. where they go to school.
• Any change to your child’s name.
• The standard of living enjoyed by the family.
• Appointing the child guardian should there be a death of a parent.
• Providing consent to your child’s operation or other medical treatment.
• Having full access of your child’s medical record.
• Being able to provide consent to take your child abroad for holidays or extended stays.
• Being able to determine your child’s religion.

It is very important to be aware of what your parental responsibility involves. Many parents are unaware of this and after separation from their partner they are oblivious to the fact that they also have the same rights as their partner.