Parental Responsibility Law

Parental responsibility law refers to the legal rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority a parent has in regards to a child and the child's property. A person who has parental responsibility for a child has the right to make decisions about their care and upbringing.

All mothers (and most fathers) already have parental responsibility rights, duties and responsibilities that are described in The Children Act 1989 as ‘Parental Responsibility.’ Parental responsibility laws state it is up to a parent to promote their child’s welfare whilst discussing certain rights such as agreeing to a child’s medical treatment, obtaining school reports, naming the child and agreeing to any name change.

Who has Parental Responsibility?

Parental responsibility is key when it comes to changing your child’s surname. Parental responsibility can be complicated if the child’s mother and father aren’t amicable; however, it’s recommended both parents put their child’s preference at the forefront.

  1. Mothers
    Mothers will automatically have parental responsibility for their child from birth. However, a mother’s parental responsibility can be revoked by an Order, such as an adoption order.
  2. Fathers
    A father has parental responsibility if he:
    -Is married to the child’s mother at birth; a divorce will not remove parental responsibility
    -Is listed on the birth certificate from 1st December 2003
    -Gains a parental responsibility agreement through Form C (PRA1) from the child’s mother
    -Gains a parental responsibility order from the Court
  3. Step-parents
    Even if you play a key part in the child’s life or have recently married the child’s mother, step-parents do not automatically have parental responsibility. A step-parent can apply for parental responsibility through Form C (PRA2), even if two people already have parental responsibility for the child. If approved, this will grant you with legal responsibility for the child.
  4. Same-sex partners
    For same-sex partners, parental responsibility comes down to if you are civil or non-civil partners. If you are in a civil partnership at the time of fertility treatment or donor insemination, then both individuals have parental responsibility. However, non-civil partners will need to apply for a parental responsibility agreement.

Removing Parental Responsibility

Case law demonstrates that while removing parental responsibility is possible, it should only be ordered in extreme to prioritise the child’s welfare if the parent in question is dangerous to them. Examples of removing parental responsibility in leading case law are cases in which an unmarried father was found guilty of harming the child or their siblings. Generally speaking, if the parents are married, it is more likely that courts will enforce a prohibited steps order, limiting parental responsibility, rather than removing it.

If you don’t automatically have parental responsibility, you can apply to the Court for parental responsibility to be granted. However, before any action is taken, seek legal advice. For clarification on parental responsibility or if you are seeking parental responsibility, our family law team are ready to advise you on parental responsibility laws.

Our family law team is here to help.

Please call us to find out how we can help. We can talk on the phone or arrange a meeting where we can discuss your options and give you a clear idea of timeframes and costs.

Alternatively, please contact us online and we’ll call you back when it’s convenient for you.