What is parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility is all the legal rights, duties, and responsibilities that a parent has in relation to a child.

Those with parental responsibility have the right to make decisions in respect of a child, such as where they will go to school, where they will live, and what medical treatment they will have. 

Having parental responsibility is therefore important if you want to be involved in important decisions relating to that child and their upbringing. 

Who has parental responsibility?

Mothers automatically have parental responsibility.

In opposite-sex couples, fathers have parental responsibility if married to the mother when the child was born or if named as the father on the child’s birth certificate. Same-sex partners will both have parental responsibility if married or in a civil partnership at the time of conception.

Under an Adoption Order, you will automatically be given parental responsibility if you adopt a child.

If a Child Arrangements Order is in place for a child to live with you, you will automatically have parental responsibility under that order.

You will be given parental responsibility for a child born by a surrogate if you apply for and obtain a Parental Order. 

How do I get parental responsibility?

If you are an unmarried father and are not named on the birth certificate, the steps required to obtain parental responsibility will depend on whether the mother will agree. 

If the mother agrees, you can obtain parental responsibility by marrying the mother, having the birth certificate re-registered to include you as the named father, or entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother.

Rights as a Parent Parental Responsibility

If the mother does not agree, you can apply to the court for a parental responsibility order, giving you these rights in respect of the child. The court will want to ensure you have a genuine motivation for wanting to have parental responsibility for that child, and you will need to show your degree of commitment to the child and your current relationship with them.

You can also apply to the court for a declaration of parentage to recognise you as the child’s father on the birth certificate. If granted, the birth certificate would be re-registered to include the named father.

Can I apply for parental responsibility if I am not a parent?

Any person can apply to obtain parental responsibility. In particular, step-parents, grandparents, or those with a significant guardianship role in respect of a child may wish to apply for parental responsibility. 

Do I have to pay child maintenance if I do not have parental responsibility?

Liability to pay child maintenance is separate from the law surrounding parental responsibility. If you are a father without parental responsibility, you still have a duty to pay child maintenance. You can carry out an assessment with the Child Maintenance Service to assess what you are liable to pay.

Do I have the right to see my child if I do not have parental responsibility?

If you cannot agree on contact arrangements outside of court, you can apply to the court for a child arrangements order. You can also consider applying for a parental responsibility order at the same time. If the court makes an order for the child to live with you, you will automatically be granted parental responsibility.

Here to help

If you have any more questions or would like more information regarding parental responsibility, you can contact our Family Law Team below.

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