What are your legal rights as a step-parent?

Posted 14th June 2016

Written by Family Law Team

The short answer, in legal terms, is none.

Family Law Newtons Solicitors Grandparents Rights

Whilst you might be involved in the children’s daily routine and care, marrying someone with children does not automatically entitle you to ‘parental responsibility’ for them or a legal status in their lives. The mother to the children always has parental responsibility and most, although not all, biological fathers do.

Since December 2005, it has been possible for a step-parent to achieve parental responsibility by way of an agreement between the step-parent and the natural parents. This must be done through a formal Parental Responsibility Agreement. If an agreement is not forthcoming, you can apply to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order. All parties with parental responsibility would need to be provided with notice of an application to the court.

What does ‘parental responsibility’ mean?

Parental responsibility means that you have the same rights and responsibilities as the children’s natural parents, including authorising medical treatment and making day to day decisions. Consultation with both the other parents is needed before making any major decisions which could significantly affect a child’s upbringing such as a decision in relation to which school a child should attend.

Children Act 1989 – Meaning of “parental responsibility”

In this Act “parental responsibility” means 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.

  1. In this Act “parental responsibility” means 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.
  2. The fact that a person has, or does not have, parental responsibility for a child shall not affect—

– any obligation which he may have in relation to the child (such as a statutory duty to maintain the child); or

– any rights which, in the event of the child’s death, he (or any other person) may have in relation to the child’s property.

  1. A person who:

– does not have parental responsibility for a particular child; but

– has care of the child,

must (subject to the provisions of this Act) do what is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case for the purpose of safeguarding or promoting the child’s welfare.

If you wish to discuss this or any other family law issues, please contact our family law team on 01423 789050 or info@newtons.co.uk