Parental rights

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Health Assured team

28 June 2022

Parental Responsibility is defined as “all rights, duties, powers and responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property” under Section 3(1) Children Act 1989. This Parental Responsibility will usually end when the child reaches 18 years old.

What does Parental Responsibility consist of?

Parental responsibility is commonly accepted to include but is not limited to the following important decisions:

  • Providing a home for the child
  • Protecting and maintaining the child
  • To ensure the child receives appropriate education
  • To consent to medical treatment or obtain appropriate treatment for the child
  • To name/ change name of the child
  • Consenting to taking the child abroad
  • Ensure that the children are supported financially

The above is a non-exhaustive list as Parental Responsibility covers a wide spectrum of child related decisions to ensure children are always supported and appropriately cared for.

In cases of separated parents, day to day routine decisions should usually be taken by the resident parent or the person with whom the child lives with at the time. However, both parents must be including where major decisions are being made such as taking children abroad.

Parents can choose to agree these matters informally through their private communication and put any of these agreements in writing for both parties to sign.

In situations where both parents with Parental Responsibility cannot agree on a decision family mediation is encouraged to help them reach an agreement amicably. If mediation is unsuccessful, either parent can apply for a Child Arrangements Order, Specific Issue Order or a Prohibited Steps Order requesting the court to hear their case and make a final decision.

  • Child arrangements order - used to agree access to the children.
  • Specific Issue Order - used to asked court to make a decision about a specific query such as allowing the child to go abroad.
  • Prohibited Steps Order – used to ask the court to prevent the other parent from doing something such as changing schools.

The court will make a decision taking into consideration the best interests of the children.

Who has Parental Responsibility?

A mother automatically has Parental Responsibility for her child from birth. A father usually has Parental Responsibility for the child if he married to or in a civil partnership with the child’s mother when the child is born or if they have jointly adopted a child. They will both keep the Parental Responsibility if they later divorce.

Where individuals are not married, a father can obtain Parental Responsibility in one of the following ways:

  • Jointly registering the birth of the child with the mother (from 1 December 2003) and therefore having both names on the birth certificate
  • Getting a parental responsibility agreement with the mother
  • Getting a parental responsibility order from a court

For same-sex civil partners, both will have Parental Responsibility if they were civil partners at the time of the donor insemination or fertility treatment.

For same-sex partners who are not civil partners, the second parent can get Parental Responsibility by either:

  • Applying for parental responsibility if a parental agreement was made
  • Becoming a civil partner of the other parent and making a parental responsibility agreement
  • Jointly registering the birth.

It is important to note that grandparents and stepparents do not automatically have Parental Responsibility or rights to access children.

Applying for Parental Responsibility

If you are a father who wants Parental Responsibility and the mother agrees, fill in a parental responsibility agreement form and take it to a local family court where it can be signed and witnessed.

If you are not the mother, you can apply to the court to get Parental Responsibility. You would need to be connected to the child. To apply you will need to fill in a C1 application form which can be found on the website and send the completed form to your local family court.  More than two people can have Parental Responsibility for the same child.

The connected person can obtain Parental Responsibility if there is a court order in place which confers Parental Responsibility on them, such as an Adoption Order, Child Arrangements Order for residence or Special Guardianship Order.


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