Parental Responsibility

What is Parental Responsibility?

Having parental responsibility gives a person important legal rights and responsibilities for a child.  It is defined by s3.1 of the 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”.  It allows a person to be involved in important decisions regarding the child such as where they live, their education, religious upbringing and medical treatment.  A person with parental responsibility is treated in law as the child’s parent and can take equal responsibility for bringing the child up with any other person also having parental responsibility.

The mother of a child will always have parental responsibility.  The father will automatically have parental responsibility for a child if:

  1. They are married to or in a civil partnership with the mother of the child
  2. They are registered on the birth certificate if the child was born after the 1 December 2003.

A father who does not have parental responsibility can get it by:-

  1. Marrying the mother or entering into a civil partnership with her
  2. Obtaining the signed agreement of the mother
  3. By applying to the court for an order of the court.
  4. By obtaining a Child Arrangements Order (regarding residence)

Second female parents, male partners, step parents, grandparents, kinship carers and others with whom a child lives can also acquire parental responsibility in certain circumstances.  A Local Authority can also acquire parental responsibility for a child if a Care Order is made in their favour.

If you have parental responsibility but do not live with the child, you are still entitled to be involved in important decisions and to be kept informed about the child particularly in relation to their education and healthcare.

If you are a full time carer for a child and do not have parental responsibility for the child, it can cause difficulties because you cannot legally make important decisions regarding the child.

If you do not have parental responsibility you are not automatically entitled to make an application to the court in relation to the child and would have to seek leave of the court to do so first.

If you have any queries regarding parental responsibility or have any concerns regarding your children please  do not hesitate to contact our family lawyers for free initial advice on 01723 351351 or email