What Is Parental Responsibility?

By Victoria Richardson - 23rd March 2021

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When someone has parental responsibility, it means they have the legal right to make decisions regarding a child’s care and upbringing.

In legal terms, it 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”.

Who has parental responsibility?

In England and Wales, all mothers automatically have parental responsibility. A father will have parental responsibility if he is either married to the mother at the time of the birth, or he is registered on the child’s birth certificate.

How do I obtain parental responsibility as a father?

If a father is not married to the mother at the time of the birth, then he does not automatically have parental responsibility. However, he can obtain parental responsibility by:

  • Being named on the child’s birth certificate
  • Getting a Parental Responsibility Order from the Court
  • Having a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the child’s mother

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What is a Parental Responsibility Order?

If a father is not married to the mother of their child, and the mother is unwilling to register his name on the birth certificate or to sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement, then the final option is to get a Parental Responsibility Order. This is a type of Court order. It involves making an application to the Court, seeking that an order is made providing you with Parental Responsibility.

Due to the powers and responsibilities that come with parental responsibility, the Court will consider various factors before granting an Order. This includes:

  • The father’s current relationship with the child
  • What contact the father has with the child
  • The father’s commitment to the child throughout their life
  • Why the father is asking the Court to make this order

What if we adopt a child – will we obtain Parental Responsibility?

You will acquire parental responsibility when you adopt a child.

What does having Parental Responsibility mean?

By having parental responsibility, you have the power to make important decisions about your child’s life. This can include (but is not limited to):

  • Decisions about the child’s education and where the child will go to school
  • Obtaining the child’s medical records
  • Consenting to any medical treatment for the child
  • Changing the child’s name
  • Taking the child abroad for holidays or extended stays

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Do I need permission to move abroad with my child?

If you want to move abroad with your child, you require written consent from everyone with parental responsibility.

If your former partner disagrees with the proposed move, he/she could issue an urgent application for a Prohibited Steps Order. The Court will then make a decision based on what it believes to be in the child’s best interests.

What happens if parents disagree on child care issues?

Should parents be unable to agree on certain aspects of their child’s life, then it is worth considering family mediation. This aims to resolve a dispute amicably.

If mediation is unsuccessful, you may have to apply to the Court for a Specific Issue Order or Prohibited Steps Order. In doing so, you are asking the Court to resolve the disputed issue for you. The Court will make a final decision based on the child’s best interests.

Speak to our Family Law Solicitors

If you are having difficulties in obtaining parental responsibility and want to discuss your options, give us a call for a free no-obligation initial appointment on 0161 641 6100.

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