Parental Responsibility: Understanding Your Rights and How to Apply

For many families the issue of parental responsibility may never even be considered to be an issue. However, in more complicated family setups it can become important to understand the nature of parental responsibility and how to apply for it.

What is parental responsibility?

In its simplest form, parental responsibility gives a parent the right and responsibility to the care of a child. This will include making decisions about how they should be brought up, contributing to their upbringing financially and caring for their wellbeing until they turn 18.

Parental responsibility involves:

  • Naming a child
  • Agreeing to a child’s medical treatment
  • Ensuring a child is educated
  • Looking after a child’s property
  • Disciplining a child

In situations where parents do not live together, a child may live with only one parent or split their time between homes. While this may impact on a parent’s requirements to protect and maintain the child, both parents retain their right to be kept updated as to the child’s well-being and progress.

Who has parental responsibility

By law, a child’s birth mother is automatically granted parental responsibility and is expected to adhere to their responsibilities. Fathers and step-parents wishing to gain parental responsibility must apply for this legal responsibility, however.

The simplest way for a father to gain parental responsibility is to have their name registered on a child’s birth certificate (as of December 2003). They may also be given automatic responsibility if they are married to the mother when the child is born.

Step-parents or fathers not named on a birth certificate do not automatically have parental responsibility by law.

How to apply for parental responsibility

Should they wish to gain the right to care for a child, a step-parent or father who is not married or registered on a birth certificate may do so through a parental responsibility agreement. This must be signed by all other parents and registered with the court.

Granting parental responsibility to a step-parent does not affect the rights of the birth mother or father. It may, however, be blocked by those who already possess parental responsibility for a child. Under these circumstances, an adult must apply for a parental responsibility order, requiring the court to consider the case based on the best interests of the child.

 If you wish to apply for parental responsibility for a child, you will be required to fill in a parental responsibility agreement or agreement form for step parents. These can be accessed via the website. An agreement will need to be signed and witnessed at your local county court or family proceedings court.

Gaining a parental responsibility order requires you to apply for a court order.

If you require advice or assistance in drawing up a parental responsibility agreement or filing a court order, start comparing solicitors who offer family services now.