Parental Responsibility

Parental Responsibility means the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority that most parents have in respect of their children.  Its more about the obligations than the rights.  It gives parents the legal basis on which to make decisions about a child’s upbringing.  Some important decisions must be agreed by everyone with parental responsibility, such as:

Whether or not a child has medical treatment

How and where a child is educated

Which, if any, religion a child follows

Deciding a child’s name and registering their birth

Giving consent for a child to leave the country, whether for a holiday or permanently.

Day-to-day parenting 

Day-to-day decisions are made by the person who is looking after their child at that time; they don’t have to be agreed with each person with parental responsibility. 

This doesn’t mean parents shouldn’t discuss what they think is appropriate on a day-to-day level. It is helpful if parents agree on how to tackle issues such as discipline, bedtimes, and homework, but if you don’t agree on these things then neither parent can force the issue with the other. 

A parent can decide who a child sees when they are with them. If you or your child’s other parent wants to introduce a new partner to your child, ideally both parents should discuss how it might affect your child and how they feel. You cannot prevent your child’s other parent introducing a new partner to your child, unless the new partner would pose a risk to your child.

Supporting children financially

Parental responsibility does not affect the duty a parent has to maintain their child financially – all parents have a duty to pay towards their child’s upbringing, whether or not they have parental responsibility.

Who has Parental Responsibility

Mothers always have parental responsibility for their child, unless the child is adopted by somebody else. Fathers who are married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth also have parental responsibility.

For fathers who are not married to the mother when the child is born, other factors are relevant. If the child was born after 1 December 2003 and the father is named on the child’s birth certificate, he will have parental responsibility. If the child was born before that date, only the mother has parental responsibility, even if father is named on the birth certificate.

There are a few methods by which a father without parental responsibility can acquire it:

by marrying the mother

by obtaining a parental responsibility order from the Court

by entering into a formal parental responsibility agreement with the Mother (this is a formal procedure requiring particular documents)

by obtaining a Child Arrangements Order outlining where the child is to live (formerly a residence order)

by being appointed as the child’s guardian