Parental Responsibility

Your Trust Legal Advisors
Parental Responsibility
Parental Responsibility
A law firm committed to excellence.

Whether you're navigating a complex business transaction, resolving a family dispute, or seeking guidance on estate planning, you can trust DLS Solicitors to deliver sound legal advice and effective solutions. With a reputation built on integrity, professionalism, and results, we are here to advocate for your best interests every step of the way.

About Company
Divorce Solicitors
Property Solicitors

For a free 30-minute initial chat with one of our parental responsibility experts, call us at 01625 460281 or complete our online form.

What is parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility encompasses all the legal rights, duties, powers, and responsibilities that a parent has in relation to their child and their property, according to the law.

This means that if you have parental responsibility, you are recognised by the law as having the authority to make important decisions regarding the upbringing of your child.

The obligations and responsibilities of a person with parental responsibility include providing care and protection for their child, offering a suitable home, and making significant decisions about the child’s life, such as education, welfare, and medical treatment. Additionally, individuals with parental responsibility may need to decide on matters such as:

  • Choosing the child’s legal name, including deciding whether a name change is appropriate and under what circumstances.
  • Granting permission for the child to travel to another country, whether for a holiday or an extended trip.
  • Deciding whether the child will be raised in a particular religious faith or environment.

How to apply for parental responsibility?

If you do not currently have parental responsibility and wish to obtain it, you can either enter into a parental responsibility agreement or apply for a parental responsibility order through the court. The choice between these options will largely depend on your individual circumstances.

Who has parental responsibility?

In England and Wales, a mother automatically acquires parental responsibility for her child from birth, even if donor eggs were used. The allocation of parental responsibility to others depends on specific circumstances:

  • A father who is married to the birth mother will have parental responsibility regardless of whether the marriage occurred before or after the child’s birth.
  • An unmarried father listed on the birth certificate will also have parental responsibility.
  • In same-sex relationships, both partners will have parental responsibility if they were married or in a civil partnership before insemination.
  • For unmarried same-sex couples, the mother who carries the child automatically gains parental responsibility, and the second parent can acquire parental responsibility by being named on the birth certificate.

However, unmarried fathers not named on the birth certificate and second parents in same-sex relationships do not automatically have parental responsibility. This means they are not legally recognised as having all the responsibilities related to a child, such as providing consent for medical treatment or receiving updates on a child’s school progress.

A parent lacking automatic parental responsibility can obtain it either with the other parent’s agreement or through a court application, formalised in a Parental Responsibility Agreement or court order.

Parental responsibility for separated parents

As discussed earlier, parental rights and responsibilities vary based on the circumstances. Many individuals are surprised and dismayed to discover that if parents are unmarried, only the mother typically has automatic rights concerning their children.

For a father or other non-married second parent to acquire these rights, they can do so through a Parental Responsibility Agreement or a court order. Without parental responsibility, a parent lacks the authority to consent to medical treatment or participate in the child’s education.

In the event of a separation, the birth mother has an automatic right to determine where the children reside, without input from the father or other parent, unless there is an existing agreement or court order.

Biological fathers can obtain parental responsibility by:

  • Marrying the mother of their child
  • Entering into a voluntary Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother
  • Obtaining a parental responsibility order from the court

Stepparents can also obtain parental responsibility by reaching an agreement with all individuals who currently hold parental responsibility or, if necessary, by applying to the court.

Before the court grants an order for parental responsibility, it must be demonstrated that there is a level of commitment to the child, a bond exists between the applicant and the child, and the application is solely in the child’s best interests.

Once parental responsibility is acquired, it must be exercised appropriately and in collaboration with the child’s mother or any other individual who shares parental responsibility.

Parental responsibility and contact

If you possess parental responsibility but are being denied access to your child and cannot reach an agreement with the other parent, you may need to seek a court order known as a Child Arrangements Order.

This order will determine the frequency and location of your visits with your child based on the specifics of the case and other considerations, such as prior contact, geographical locations of the parties, the children’s ages, and (if applicable) the children’s views. The court’s decision will prioritise what is deemed to be in the child’s best interests.

Parental responsibility ceases when the child reaches the age of 18, or earlier if a court order dictates.

For inquiries about child contact or parental rights in the UK, please reach out to our expert solicitors at DLS Solicitors. You can contact us at 01625 460281 or complete our online form.

Who can apply for parental responsibility?

The individuals eligible to apply for parental responsibility include:

  • Unmarried fathers
  • Second female parents
  • Spouses or civil partners of a parent

Others may potentially acquire parental responsibility through a Child Arrangements Order or by appointment as a child’s guardian or special guardian. Furthermore, a local authority can obtain parental responsibility for a child via a care order.

What are parental responsibility laws?

According to parental responsibility laws, a birth mother automatically acquires parental responsibility for her children from their birth.

The scope of parental responsibility under the law depends on the specific circumstances outlined previously.

Fathers who do not possess parental responsibility have the option to apply for it, as do individuals with a significant connection to the child, such as a second mother or a stepparent. Parental responsibility law allows for more than two individuals to have parental responsibility for a child.

Who can apply for parental responsibility?

If you are not the child’s mother, you can apply to obtain parental responsibility. For instance, if you are the child’s father and not married to the mother or named on the birth certificate, you do not have parental responsibility automatically.

You may also want to apply if you are the child’s second mother or if you are raising a child as a stepparent. Making an application enables those who are not automatically granted parental responsibility to establish parental rights.

What is a parental responsibility agreement?

A parental responsibility agreement is an arrangement between the mother of a child and another individual seeking parental responsibility (such as the child’s biological father or a stepparent). The purpose of the agreement is for one of these parties to acquire parental responsibility without going through a court hearing.

The process of creating and enforcing a parental responsibility agreement involves completing the necessary legal paperwork. Once the forms are filled out, they need to be signed and witnessed at a family court.

What is a parental responsibility order?

This process is used when parents or stepparents cannot reach an agreement on parental responsibility through negotiation and therefore cannot establish a parental responsibility agreement. The individual seeking parental responsibility will need to apply to the court for a parental responsibility order.

The court will assess the best interests of the child and the specifics of the case when deciding whether to grant parental responsibility. Factors considered include the applicant’s reasons for seeking parental responsibility and their relationship with the child. The court will evaluate whether the applicant has demonstrated a suitable commitment to the child and the responsibilities associated with parental responsibility.

For advice on parental rights and obtaining a parental responsibility order in the UK, please contact our solicitors.

When does parental responsibility end?

Parental responsibility typically ends when the child reaches the age of 18. However, it may cease earlier if circumstances such as adoption or the death of a parent occur.

Additionally, a parental responsibility order granted through a Child Arrangements Order may end if the order is discharged or expires.

Can parental responsibility be taken away?

Terminating parental responsibility is uncommon, but certain circumstances, such as abuse or adoption, may warrant its removal from a parent.

In rare cases, someone with parental responsibility may apply to have it removed from another individual. The success of such an application depends on the circumstances surrounding the initial acquisition of parental responsibility.

How are parental disputes resolved?

When parents with joint parental responsibility disagree on significant decisions regarding their child’s upbringing, the parent wishing to make the decision typically requires the consent of the other.

Parents with parental responsibility often face the challenge of agreeing on key aspects of their child’s life and welfare, which can lead to disputes.

In cases of disagreement over a child’s upbringing, the initial step is for parents to attempt mediation to resolve the issue.

If mediation proves unsuccessful, those with parental responsibility may need to apply for one of the following court orders:

  • Child Arrangements Order: This order determines where the child will live and the contact arrangements with each parent.
  • Specific Issue Order: This order seeks a legally binding decision from the court on a specific issue related to the child’s upbringing.
  • Prohibited Steps Order: If one parent is aware of the other parent’s plan to take action (e.g., relocating the child abroad) and disagrees with it, the opposing parent can apply for a Prohibited Steps Order to prevent the action.

Get support with parental responsibility today

For advice on parental responsibility in the UK, call us today or request a call using our contact form.

From the start to finish we were made to feel welcome every time and we had an appointment with Danielle Shawcross and her team. Whatever points we didn't understand the team did their utmost efforts to help us.
Barry Hadfield

Working with you towards a positive conclusion.

Feel free to get in touch with us any convenient way

Looking for expert legal advice and assistance? Don't hesitate! Contact DLS Solicitors today for professional and reliable legal services tailored to your needs. Whether you're facing a complex legal issue or seeking guidance on personal matters, our experienced team is here to help.

Postal Address

14 George Street, Alderley Edge, Cheshire, SK9 7EJ

General Enquiries

[email protected]

Business Phone

01625 460281

Would you like us to contact you?