All You Need To Know About Parental Responsibility and Law

06 May 2022

Parental responsibility is the legal responsibility to ensure a child is maintained, protected and supported. Parents with parental responsibility have a say in the most important factors in the child’s life, ranging from education, changing their name to where they live, and all those holding the responsibility must consent. For routine decisions, however, consent from all parties with parental responsibility is not required.

*Parents must ensure that their child is financially supported, whether they have parental responsibility or not.

Who has automatic parental responsibility?

A mother has automatic parental responsibility for her child from birth. A father has automatic parental responsibility for the child if married to the child’s mother upon the child’s birth.

How might a father obtain parental responsibility if not married to the child’s mother?

A father can get parental responsibility for his child if unmarried to the mother, by either jointly registering the birth of the child with the mother and being named on the birth certificate (from December 2003), by getting a parental responsibility agreement with the mother or by getting a parental responsibility order from Court.

What about adoptive parents?

If a child is jointly adopted by a couple, then both have parental responsibility upon completion of the adoption process.

What about for same sex partners (using fertility treatment/donor insemination)?

Same sex civil partners will both have parental responsibility if they were civil partners at the time of treatment. If they were non-civil partners, then the second parent can get parental responsibility by either applying to Court or becoming a civil partner and making a parental responsibility agreement, or by jointly registering the birth of the child.

What happens in the event of divorce?

The parental responsibility does not change in the event of a divorce. All parties will maintain their responsibility towards the child, unless the Court says otherwise.

What happens if the parties with parental responsibility disagree?

In the event that one party does not consent or there is a disagreement on an important matter related to the child, then an application for a Specific Issue Order or a Prohibited Steps Order can be made to Court. A judge will then make a decision in consideration of the child’s best interests.

Can parental responsibility be taken away?

Parental responsibility can be taken away from the mother and father if the child is made subject to an Adoption Order. Parental responsibility can be taken away from a father by way of a Court Order. This occurs in exceptional circumstances in which it is in the child’s best interests to be disassociated from the father.

Do you have more questions about any of the above points or see yourself requiring the help of a specialist to deal with a family law matter? We are here for you so get in touch today and together we can make sure you are in a good and secure position.

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