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What is Parental Responsibility and who has it?

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What is Parental Responsibility and who has it?

The rules around parental responsibility can be somewhat confusing and can vary depending on the situation.

This article has been written to clear up any of that confusion.

Here, Simon Immins answers some of the most common questions around parental responsibility…

What is parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility is the rights and  responsibilities a parent has over a child.

Having parental responsibility allows an individual to:

  • Consent to or obtain appropriate medical care for the child;
  • Name the child;
  • Ensure that the child receives the appropriate education for their age;
  • Have a say in where the child should live;
  • And more

More than two people can have responsibility for the same child.

Is parental responsibility the same as custody?

This is a common question we get asked as Family Solicitors and often causes parents confusion. 

It is worth noting that all mothers and most fathers have legal rights and responsibilities, known as parental responsibility. 

The phrase “custody” is old terminology.  This is now known as a Child Arrangements Order and such order defines the arrangements that are put in place by a Court when parents are unable to agree the arrangements for their children.

Who is entitled to parental responsibility?

Biological mothers automatically have parental responsibility.

Female partners who are married to the biological mother at the time of conception, have parental responsibility (unless the conception came from intercourse).

A father has parental responsibility if he is either married to the child’s mother or is listed on the birth certificate (joint registration of the birth of the child with the mother as of 1 December 2003). 

Does a father have parental responsibility?

Fathers who are married to or in a civil partnership with the mother have parental responsibility. This will not be lost in the event of a divorce.

Fathers who are not married or in a civil partnership with the mother do not automatically have parental responsibility.

What rights does an unmarried father have?

An unmarried father does not automatically have parental responsibility. He can acquire it, if:

  • He obtains a Parental Responsibility Order from the Court
  • He enters into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the child’s mother
  • He jointly registered the birth with the mother and is named on the birth certificate

Learn more about an unmarried father’s rights in our full article here.

Does a stepparent have parental responsibility?

No, a stepparent does not automatically have parental responsibility.

However, they can attain it through a Parental Responsibility Agreement, adoption or Child Arrangements Order.

For more on attaining parental responsibility as a stepparent, read our dedicated article here.

How do you gain parental responsibility?

If you don’t already have parental responsibility and want to gain it, you can by:

  • Entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the child’s mother
  • Entering into a Step-Parent Parental Responsibility Agreement with the child’s mother (if married) and the other parent
  • Applying to court for an order (the court isn’t guaranteed to grant you responsibility)
  • Obtaining a Child Arrangements Order/Live With Order

You need to have a connection to the child; whether that’s being their father, step-parent or 2nd female parent.

How long does parental responsibility last?

Parental responsibility lasts until:

  • The child turns 18 years old, or
  • The child’s marriage (if between the age of 16 and 18), or
  • An adoption order is made.

What happens when two parents can’t agree on their child’s school?

If two parents with parental responsibility can’t agree on a child’s schooling arrangements, there are a few options.

  • Discussions between parties
  • Mediation
  • Court involvement/order

We discuss these options in more detail in our dedicated article. Read it here.

Can my ex-partner pick our child up from school without my permission?

If someone has Parental Responsibility, they can pick up their child from school. However, a Child Arrangements Order might set out certain restrictions; depending on the terms of the order, a parent picking up their child from school could be in breach.

Click here to read more on this.

How do child arrangements work regarding surrogacy?

My colleague Olivia Le Masurier outlines how child arrangements and parental responsibility work in surrogacy and the legal implications. Read it here.

Solicitors for gaining parental responsibility

If you have any questions following this article, or would like some assistance in obtaining parental responsibility, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Our bright and experienced family team would be happy to field any questions that you may have.

For a free initial chat, call us on 01202 499255 or fill out the form at the top of this page.

The content of this article, blog or video is not intended as specific legal advice. For tailored assistance, please contact a member of our team.