Parental Responsibility Order

Parental Responsibility Order
Parental Responsibility Order
Full Overview Of Parental Responsibility Order

Parental responsibility (PR) is a fundamental concept in family law, encompassing a parent’s legal rights, duties, powers, responsibilities, and authority concerning their child and the child’s property. At DLS Solicitors, we understand that navigating the complexities of parental responsibility can be challenging. This overview explains the intricacies of parental responsibility orders (PRO), clarifying what they are, their legal implications, and the processes involved.

What is Parental Responsibility?

Under the Children Act 1989, parental responsibility is defined as “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.” This responsibility encompasses various aspects, such as:

  • Providing a home for the child
  • Protecting and maintaining the child
  • Disciplining the child
  • Choosing and providing for the child’s education
  • Agreeing to the child’s medical treatment
  • Naming the child and agreeing to any change of name
  • Looking after the child’s property

Who Has Parental Responsibility?

Automatically, the birth mother has parental responsibility. Fathers gain parental responsibility if they are married to the mother at the time of birth or if they are listed on the birth certificate (for births registered after 1 December 2003). Unmarried fathers not on the birth certificate, step-parents, and civil partners can acquire parental responsibility through various means, such as:

Parental Responsibility Orders

A Parental Responsibility Order (PRO) is a court order granting parental responsibility to an individual who does not automatically have it. This is typically sought by unmarried fathers, step-parents, or other individuals with a significant role in the child’s life.

When to Apply for a Parental Responsibility Order

Applications for a PRO are common when the parents are unmarried, and the father is not listed on the birth certificate. Step-parents and civil partners may also seek a PRO to ensure they have the legal authority to make child welfare decisions.

The Legal Framework

The Children Act 1989 is the primary legislation governing parental responsibility in England and Wales. It emphasises the child’s welfare as the court’s paramount consideration when making any decisions related to parental responsibility.

Criteria for Granting a Parental Responsibility Order

When deciding whether to grant a PRO, the court considers several factors, including:

  • The applicant’s commitment to the child
  • The applicant’s attachment to the child
  • The reasons for applying for the order

The court’s primary focus is always the child’s welfare, ensuring that any decision made is in the child’s best interests.

The Application Process

Step 1: Mediation

Before applying for a PRO, attending a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) is often necessary. This step encourages parents to resolve disputes amicably without resorting to court action. However, there are exceptions, such as cases involving domestic abuse or urgency.

Step 2: Making an Application

If mediation is unsuccessful or deemed inappropriate, the next step is to apply to the court. The applicant must complete the form (C1) and pay the necessary fee. Legal advice is highly recommended to ensure all procedural requirements are met.

Step 3: Court Proceedings

Once an application is submitted, the court will schedule a hearing. Both parties (the applicant and the mother) will have the opportunity to present their case. The court may also consider reports from social services or other relevant bodies.

Step 4: The Court’s Decision

After considering all the evidence, the court will decide whether to grant the PRO. If granted, the applicant will have legal parental responsibility, allowing them to make important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing.

Responsibilities and Implications

Shared Parental Responsibility

Obtaining a PRO means that parental responsibility is shared between the mother and the individual granted the order. This shared responsibility requires both parties to consult and agree on major child welfare decisions.

Legal and Practical Implications

With parental responsibility, the individual gains the legal authority to make decisions about the child’s education, health care, and other significant matters. This can include:

  • Enrolling the child in school
  • Consenting to medical treatment
  • Applying for a passport
  • Making decisions about religious upbringing

Challenges and Disputes

Disagreements Between Parents

Shared parental responsibility can sometimes lead to disputes, particularly when parents have differing views on what is best for the child. In such cases, mediation is often the first step in resolving disagreements. If mediation fails, the court may need to intervene, considering the child’s welfare as the paramount concern.

Enforcement of Parental Responsibility

If a parent with parental responsibility fails to fulfil their duties, legal action can be taken to enforce compliance. This may involve applying for specific issue orders or prohibited steps orders to address particular concerns.


Parental Responsibility Orders ensure that individuals who play a significant role in a child’s life can legally contribute to their upbringing. At DLS Solicitors, we recognise the importance of understanding and navigating the legal framework surrounding parental responsibility. Our dedicated team is here to provide expert guidance and support, helping clients achieve the best outcomes for their children.

Whether you are seeking a PRO or dealing with disputes over parental responsibility, our experienced solicitors are ready to assist. We are committed to protecting the welfare of children and ensuring that their best interests are always at the forefront of any legal decisions. If you require further information or legal assistance regarding parental responsibility, please get in touch with us at DLS Solicitors.

Parental Responsibility Order FAQ'S

A parental responsibility order is a court order granting parental responsibility to an individual, typically a father or stepparent, who does not automatically have it. This allows them to make decisions about the child’s upbringing.

Typically, a biological father who is not married to the mother or a stepparent who is married to or in a civil partnership with the biological parent can apply for a Parental Responsibility Order.

To apply, you must submit Form C1 to the Family Court, any required documentation, and a fee. The court will schedule a hearing to consider the application.


The court considers the applicant’s commitment to the child, the relationship with the child, the reasons for applying, and whether granting the order is in the child’s best interests.

Yes, the child’s mother or any other person with parental responsibility can challenge the application. The court will then decide based on evidence and the child’s best interests.

It grants the holder the right to make decisions regarding the child’s education, medical treatment, religion, and overall welfare, similar to the rights of a biological parent with parental responsibility.

It is rare, but a Parental Responsibility Order can be revoked by the court if it is deemed no longer in the child’s best interests.

No, parental responsibility and child maintenance are separate issues. A Parental Responsibility Order does not affect the obligation to pay child maintenance.

A parental responsibility agreement is a mutual agreement between parents, while a parental responsibility order is granted by the court when parents cannot agree. The order is legally binding and enforceable by the court.

Unmarried fathers can automatically get parental responsibility if they are named on the child’s birth certificate (for births registered after December 1, 2003). Otherwise, they must obtain it through a parental responsibility agreement or order.


This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 11th July 2024.

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