What is a Parental Responsibility Order?

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In England and Wales, a Parental Responsibility Order is a Court Order which gives a person Parental Responsibility - which isn’t the same as being a parent. Instead, Parental Responsibility gives a person "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".

Ultimately, this means that someone with Parental Responsibility can make decisions about the child’s education, accommodation and medical care.

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Who has Parental Responsibility?

All biological mothers automatically have Parental Responsibility over their children as soon as they are born. The following people also automatically have Parental Responsibility:

  • A father, if he was married to the mother at the time the child was born
  • An unmarried father, if he jointly registered the birth
  • Same-sex partners, if they were civil partners or married at the time the child was born, or at the time of fertility treatment

How Do You Get Parental Responsibility?

Parental Responsibility can be obtained by the Court making a Court Order called a Parental Responsibility Order.

An application can be made to the Court specifically for a Parental Responsibility Order, or the Court may automatically grant a Parental Responsibility Order at the same time as granting a Child Arrangement Order stating where a child is to live. 

For more information on applying for a Parental Responsibility Order, get in touch with our Family and Child Law Solicitors.

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When to Apply for a Parental Responsibility Order

If you’re connected to the child in some way, such as being their step-parent, a same-sex parent or unmarried father, and you want to ensure that you’re involved in important decisions in the child’s life, then you would need to apply for a Parental Responsibility Order.

Crucially, if you’re a father or same-sex partner who was never married to the child’s mother, nor have the intention to marry the child’s mother, and you weren’t included on the child’s birth certificate, then it’s unlikely that you have Parental Responsibility for your child. 

If you’re an unmarried father or same sex parent, consider the following:

  • If you’re making an application for a Child Arrangement Order stating that your child should live with you, and the Court grants this, then the Court must make a Parental Responsibility Order at the same time

  • If you’re making an application for a Child Arrangement Order stating that your child is to spend time or otherwise have contact with you, then the Court may decide it’s appropriate to make a Parental Responsibility Order in your favour at the same time

Other Ways to get Parental Responsibility

You can enter into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother and file the agreement at the Principal Registry of the Family Division of the High Court. You may also re-register the birth of your child in joint names.

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