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What is parental responsibility?

What is parental responsibility?

 Parental Responsibility is defined in UK law 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.”

It focuses on parents’ legal duty to children as well as the powers to make decisions relating to them.

This could be day to day decisions such as which extra-curricular activities they are involved with or decisions as critical as what should happen in a medical emergency.

Here, family solicitors, Cardiff based Abigail Jones and Exeter based Lauren Ashforth, explain more.

Who has parental responsibility?

Some individuals have automatic parental responsibly. Who else has parental responsibility will depend on the circumstances.

Mothers have automatic parental responsibility for their children upon birth. This is the case even if they used donated eggs to conceive.

Fathers who are married to the mother at the time the child is born also automatically have parental responsibility.

Unmarried biological fathers do not automatically have parental responsibility. They will need to take steps to acquire parental responsibility. For example:

  • Being named on the child’s birth certificate
  • Being re-registered on the birth certificate
  • Subsequently marrying the mother (this is not extinguished on divorce)
  • Entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the birth mother
  • Obtaining an order from the court for either a parental responsibility order or Child Arrangements Order that the child should live with them.

Non-biological parents such as a step-parent, or grandparent do not automatically have parental responsibility. To acquire parental responsibility, they need to:

  • Obtain consent of all of those who have it to grant parental responsibility to you
  • Obtain a Child Arrangements Order from the family court
  • Be legally appointed as a child’s guardian or special guardian.

Additionally, a Local Authority can acquire parental responsibility for a child through a Care Order.

Can parental responsibility be terminated?

There must be very serious cause to terminate parental responsibility and it must be in the child’s best interests.

A court may also consider an application to restricts an individual’s parental responsibility, for example restricting their access to medical or educational information.

Can you make decisions alone?

If more than one person has parental responsibility, then they must agree on decisions. All those with parental responsibility for the child are entitled to have their say in decisions such as:

  • Where and how the child should be educated
  • Consenting to medical procedures and treatment
  • Agreeing to the child going on holiday or travelling abroad for extended trips
  • Representing the child in legal proceedings
  • Changing the child’s name
  • What, if any, religion the child should be brought up with.

For routine decisions like discipline or attendance at school or club events, then agreement from the other person(s) with parental responsibility is not needed.

Decisions about routine things such as bedtimes, parenting approach, or establishing boundaries and rules, are best made together to help support children through divorce.

Parenting through the school holidays

With the school summer holidays approaching it is important to have any necessary discussions with all those who have parental responsibility to ensure you can co-parent through the summer.

If you are planning on taking your children abroad or you’re hoping to spend more time with your children during the break, and you are concerned that the other parent will not provide their consent then a family lawyer can provide legal advice and details of the options available to you.

Related Links

A guide to Parental Responsibility

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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