Parental responsibility

If you don't have parental responsibility for your child, decisions about your child's upbringing can be made without your knowledge or approval. Find out here whether you have parental responsibility and if not, how you can get it.

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Who can have parental responsibility of a child?

The mother?

Yes, automatically.

The father?

Yes, also automatically if the mother and father are married at the date of the birth.

And otherwise?

The father can get parental responsibility if he marries the mother after the birth or he is registered as the father on the birth certificate (after 2003).

A second female parent in a civil partnership or marriage with the mother at the time of the birth will also have parental responsibility.

Parental responsibility can be agreed (for say an unmarried father or a step parent in addition to the natural parents) and then confirmed in a correctly completed parental responsibility agreement, or can be ordered by court. Use Rocket Lawyer to create your Parental responsibility agreement.

More than one person (or organisation such as the local authority) can have parental responsibility and if you have parental responsibility you don't stop until the child reaches 18 or is adopted (at which point the adoptive parents have the parental responsibility).

Lastly, if both parents have died, the guardian of the child will have parental responsibility.

What is the legal definition of parental responsibility?

In the Children Act 1989 parental responsibility means “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… It also includes the rights, powers and duties which a guardian… Would have had in relation to the child and his property.

What is the meaning of parental responsibility?

Each party with parental responsibility can make decisions on their own (except in some situations such as leaving the country permanently or adoption in which case both would need to agree) but the other party/parent can challenge any decision and have the matter decided by court if necessary.

Are there different levels of parental responsibility?

Of course, many parents don't live together and some don't even have contact with their children but agree that the children live with one or the other. Plus, as children get older the level of responsibility inevitably decreases. Parents will usually have a greater role to play than non-parents but an unmarried father who does not have parental responsibility still has the legal obligation to pay for the child. Remember, it is the child who is the important person here and the legislation is to protect him or her not the mother and/or father.

How do you get a parental responsibility agreement?

You simply agree with the mother to create a Parental responsibility agreement. If it is not agreed you would need to seek legal advice and apply for a court order giving you parental responsibility. Ask a lawyer for help with this or any other issue arising out of this Quick Guide.

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Create your Parental responsibility agreement

Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest