Parental Responsibility Explained

If you have Parental Responsibility, you have certain rights and powers in relation to your child, along with certain obligations.

If you don’t have Parental Responsibility, then you still have a duty to financially support your child, but you don’t have the authority to make important decisions about their life.

For initial advice get in touch with our Family and Child Law Solicitors.

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What is Parental Responsibility?

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’.

This is a very legalistic definition, and it doesn’t really shed much light on what Parental Responsibility actually means. So, to put it more simply, if you have Parental Responsibility, you have:

  • A duty to provide a home for your child
  • A duty to protect and maintain your child
  • The authority to make important decisions about your child’s life
  • The authority to look after your child’s property

Parental Responsibility vs no Parental Responsibility

In practical terms, Parental Responsibility gives you a greater say over your child’s upbringing. It means you can have an input regarding the major decisions relating to your child’s life, such as:

  • Where he/she goes to school
  • What religion he/she is brought up with
  • What his/her legal name is
  • What medical treatment he/she should receive
  • Whether he/she can be taken abroad
  • Who should be appointed as their legal Guardian
  • How he/she should be disciplined

If such issues arise and more than one person has Parental Responsibility, then everyone must be involved in the decision-making process – and agree to the decision. This doesn’t mean that one parent must run every single detail of her child’s day-to-day care past the other parent. But if a major decision must be made, such as whether or not a child can be taken abroad, then everyone with Parental Responsibility must consent.

If you don’t have Parental Responsibility, then you don’t have the authority to influence major decisions regarding your child’s life. So, if one parent wants to take their child abroad for an extended period of time, you have no right to stop them.

Also, you cannot do things like access your child’s medical records, automatically play a role in relation to legal proceedings involving your child, or manage their property (which might include an inheritance or a personal injury award).

It’s important to note that regardless of whether you have Parental Responsibility or not, you still have a legal duty to financially support your child. Also, just because you have Parental Responsibility, it doesn’t give you the right to have contact with your child.

Who has Parental Responsibility?

In England and Wales, 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 to Get Parental Responsibility

If you don’t have Parental Responsibility, there are various ways you can get it. You must be connected to the child in some way, be it as their father, step-parent, same-sex parent or grandparent.

If so, you can get Parental Responsibility by:

  • Re-registering the birth in your joint names, if you are the father/same-sex parent
  • Entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother
  • Obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order from the Court, which is your only choice if options 1 and 2 are not applicable.

A biological father could also get Parental Responsibility by subsequently marrying the biological mother, and also by obtaining a Child Arrangement Order stating that the child lives with them, as that will automatically grants the person with Parental Responsibility.

There are some circumstances in which the Local Authority or the Court can obtain Parental Responsibility in relation to children. If you are in such a position or you need any advice get in touch with our specialist Care Proceedings Solicitors.

Our Family and Child Law Solicitors Can Help You

Your rights and obligations as a parent vary, according to whether or not you have Parental Responsibility. If important decisions are being made about your child’s upbringing and you would like to have a say, we can advise you of your legal position.

If you don’t currently have Parental Responsibility but you would like to, we can explore the options available to you.

Furthermore, if there is a dispute between two people with Parental Responsibility, this can be decided by an Order of the Court. If you’re faced with this issue, we can help you.

For initial legal advice call our Family Law and Divorce Solicitors

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