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What is parental responsibility and who has it?

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Child arrangements and coronavirus

The legal definition of parental responsibility is “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authorities which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and the child’s property”. This means that parents are responsible for all the important decisions in a child’s life. Parental responsibility ends once the child reaches 18 years of age.

Those with parental responsibility for the child will have a say in certain decisions which are to be made. Day to day decisions can be made by the parent who the child lives with but important decisions regarding the upbringing of the child will need to be made by all those with parental responsibility. These decisions can include naming the child, providing a home for the child, consenting to taking the child abroad for holidays or extended stays, providing them with an education, controlling your child’s medical treatments, and choosing a religion in which the child should be brought up with.

When you share parental responsibility with another person you need to gain their consent before you can take a child out of the country. It is a criminal offence, in the UK, to take a child out of the country without the consent of all those with parental responsibility. You can apply for a Specific Issue Order or Prohibited Steps Order if you cannot agree. A judge will then make a decision which is in your child’s best interests.

Parental responsibility does not affect a parent’s duty to provide for their child financially. All parents must pay towards their child’s upbringing regardless of whether they have parental responsibility.

Who has parental responsibility?

More than one person can have parental responsibility for a child. Married parents have joint parental responsibility.

Mothers immediately gain parental responsibility once their child is born. A father will have parental responsibility if he is either married to the child’s mother or listed on the birth certificate as the father. If neither of these apply, then the father does not have parental responsibility.

How can the father obtain parental responsibility if not married to the mother or listed on the birth certificate?

  • Obtain a parental responsibility agreement with the mother (this evidences the mother’s agreement to the father having parental responsibility. It is then filed with the court).
  • Apply to the court for parental responsibility. The court will consider your commitment to the child, your current relationship with the child and your reason for making the application before granting the orders.

If you would like to speak to somebody regarding parental responsibility, then please call Stephensons on 0161 696 6193.

By Nicola Horrocks, family law team