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What is Parental Responsibility?

The law defines Parental Responsibility under S.3(1) Children Act 1989 as being:

"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".

Who has parental responsibility for a child?

  • A mother has parental responsibility automatically by virtue of giving birth to the child.
  • A married father also has parental responsibility but an unmarried father does not have parental responsibility automatically.
  • Parent Responsibility can be acquired by an unmarried father by him having his name on the child’s birth certificate, if the child was born after 1 December 2003, or by entering into a written Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother or by an order of the court.
  • A step-parent can also acquire Parental Responsibility by entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with all the parents with Parental Responsibility or by an Order of the court.
  • Anyone who has a “residence order” or now called a “living with” order for a child also has Parental Responsibility.
  • Parental Responsibility ends when a child reaches the age of 18.

What does Parental Responsibility really mean?

Having Parental Responsibility means that the other parent or person with Parental Responsibility has to consult with you regarding all major issues in the child’s life. Such matters would include religious upbringing, medical treatment and education. In addition it would prohibit the other parent from changing child’s name or surname without your consent or removing the child from the UK without your knowledge or consent. You and the other parent have the same right’s to attend school open evenings, obtain school reports, or medical records etc.

However, by having Parental Responsibility, it does not mean you can exercise this so as to interfere with the daily care administered by the person who whom the child lives.

Family Team

Lindsey Canning

Deborah Marsh
Associate & Collaborative Lawyer

Victoria Walker
Family Law Executive

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