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.
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:
Biological father not named on a child's birth certificate
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-parent who is married to the mother or in a civil partnership with her
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