What is Parental Responsibility?

Lucy Whittaker
Lucy Whittaker

Published: February 26th, 2024

7 min read

What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental responsibility is defined in s 3(1) Children Act 1989 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 refers to duties towards their child rather than the parent's rights over their child. These duties may include:

  • The child's education and school
  • Choosing, registering or changing the child's name
  • The child's medical treatment
  • Accessing a child's medical records
  • Taking the child abroad for holidays
  • Determining the religion, the child should be brought up with.

Not one parent with parental responsibility has more right to make decision as above than the other (unless there is a Court Order). The Children and Families Act 2014 introduced a presumption that decision making of both parents for the child will further a child's welfare, unless there are exceptional reasons to suggest otherwise.

Who has Parental Responsibility?

A mother automatically has parental responsibility for the child from birth. A father acquires parental responsibility if he is married to the mother or if he is listed on the child's birth certificate (post December 2003).

Second female parents who were married to or in a civil partnership with the biological mother at the time of conception also hold parental responsibility.

Stepfathers, Stepmothers or Grandparents do not automatically have parental responsibility however, if appropriate they are able to apply to the Court for parental responsibility.

How to get Parental Responsibility?

An unmarried father can get parental responsibility for his child in 1 of 3 ways:

  • Jointly registering the birth of the child with the mother (from 1 December 2003)
  • Getting a parental responsibility agreement with the mother
  • Getting a parental responsibility order from a Court.

What if people with Parental Responsibility cannot agree?

If parents are unable to agree about a decision concerning the upbringing of their child, they could try family mediation. However, if an agreement still cannot be reached, a Court application will need to be made to resolve the specific issue. This effectively will mean the parties will be asking the Court to make the decision on their behalf, and the decision will be based on what the Court believes is in the best interests of the child.

If you are struggling to reach an agreement on parental responsibility get in touch with one of family lawyers today on the details below or make a web enquiry here.

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