Parental responsibility is defined as “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”. What is not widely recognised is the fact that not all biological parents automatically have parental responsibility and that it is not only biological parents that can acquire it.
Anyone with parental responsibility can be involved in decisions about a child’s upbringing. These important decisions include:
Where the parents cannot agree on a decision, then they should try and resolve the matter using methods such as family mediation, which is more likely to be amicable. If this is not possible then the person can apply to the courts for a Specific Issue Order or a Prohibited Steps Order.
Parental responsibility can either be automatic or acquired depending on the person’s relationship to the child and their marital status.
The biological mother will always have automatic parental responsibility for a child. The situation is not always the same for the biological father, who will only have automatic parental responsibility where one of the following criteria are met:
Where the biological mother is married to/in a civil partnership with a female partner at the time of conception then this person will also have parental responsibility if the conception was not a result of sexual intercourse.
There are other parties that do not automatically qualify for parental responsibility but who can apply to the Court for an order granting it. Once granted it must be exercised jointly with the mother and anyone else that has parental responsibility. The people that can do this are:
An unmarried father can also gain parental responsibility by obtaining a Residence Order before 22 April 2014, or after this by being named as the resident parent in a Child Arrangements Order.
Parental responsibility ends in relation to all children when they reach the age of 18 years. It can also end earlier by a court order where this is in the child’s best interests, but this is extremely rare. The application can be made by someone with parental responsibility as well as the child if they understand the issues. Removing parental responsibility from an unmarried father is possible but is only done in extreme cases, and even then, fathers have retained parental responsibility even where there is evidence of abuse. It is only possible to remove parental responsibility from the biological mother or married father with an adoption order.
Parents that are married or in a civil partnership will not lose their parental responsibility if they divorce or separate- it does not matter that they are not living with their child. However, as stated above, unmarried fathers that are not named on the birth certificate will not automatically have parental responsibility. This means that the mother will be able to make all decisions in relation to the child, including where they live, and the father does not have any input. To get around this issue, the father can either get a:
Where both parents have parental responsibility, then neither can take the child abroad without the consent of the other or a court order allowing it. However, if one parent has a Child Arrangements Order, then they can take the child abroad for up to a month without the consent of the other parents with parental responsibility.
The information on this website is intended as a guide and does not constitute legal advice. Vardags do not accept liability for any errors in the information on this website, nor any losses stemming from reliance upon the statements made herein. All articles and pages aim to reflect the legal position at time they were published, and may have been rendered obsolete by subsequent developments in the law. Should you require specialist advice, tailored to your situation, please see how Vardags can help you.