Parental Responsibility

When you have a child, you are expected to take on parental responsibility as a result, to ensure that all of their needs are met. The mother of the child automatically has parental responsibility as soon as the child is born, however, the father needs to either be married to the mother or listed on the birth certificate.

Parental responsibility can cover many different things and can range from providing a home for the child in question, to protecting them, taking care of their education and medical treatment, naming them, looking after their property and disciplining them. It is important to note that parents have to ensure that their child is supported financially whether they have parental responsibility or not.

If you have issues surrounding parental responsibility, then the family law experts at Lovedays Solicitors are here to help. We will take the time to understand your situation and can offer you professional legal advice to help in the care of your child.

What is Parental Responsibility? 

You might think that parental responsibility refers to who is in charge of the child, but it is more wide reaching than this. The Children Act 1989 defines it as "all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property". This means that it concentrates on the duty that the parent has towards the child, rather than their rights over this child.

In a practical sense, parental responsibility can mean many different things. In many cases, it is used to determine who the child should be brought up with. This not only means deciding which home they should live in and who should care for them, but also ensuring that they are exposed to the religions of all those with parental responsibility if there is a mixed cultural background. 

Parental responsibility can also refer to choosing which school they should go to, registering their name, consenting to taking them abroad and consenting to medical treatment if they need it. Only those with parental responsibility will have access to the child’s medical records and will be able to represent them in any legal proceedings. Those with parental responsibility must also appoint a guardian for the child in the event of their death.


How is Parental Responsibility Acquired?

As a mother, you acquire parental responsibility from the moment that you give birth, however this can be more complicated for the father of the child. Usually, they will automatically receive parental responsibility if they are married to the mother of the child or if they have been named on the child’s birth certificate. 

If the father is not married to the mother or in a civil partnership, then they do not receive these automatic rates and may need to put a parental responsibility agreement in place or apply for a parental responsibility order from the courts. 

In order to do this, you will need to be connected to the child in some way, as their father, step-parent or as a second female parent. In the first instance, it is recommended that you try to create a parental responsibility agreement with the mother. This is something which both parents must agree on in order for it to be enforceable. 

They must complete the required parental responsibility agreement form which will then need to be signed and witnessed by a justices’ clerk or court officer and filed at the Family Division of the High Court in order for it to be legally binding.

If the mother and the other parent cannot come to an agreement over parental responsibility, then it may be necessary to apply to the court for a parental responsibility order. In this case, the courts will act in the best interests of the child and will look at the reasons why the parent is applying for parental responsibility and whether they have demonstrated the appropriate level of commitment to be granted it. 

They will also take into consideration the level of attachment that has or has not been formed between the child and the applying parent before making a decision. Usually, a court will grant an unmarried father parental responsibility unless there is a strong reason not to do so.

Parental Responsibility in Special Circumstances

Whilst the issue of who is entitled to parental responsibility might seem straightforward, there are some special circumstances in which this can be changed or transferred. One such example is through surrogacy. When a woman carries a child through pregnancy and gives birth to it on behalf of another person or couple, then she will need to transfer her automatic parental rights to them. In this case, the intended parents will need to apply to the court for a Parental Order to transfer parenthood from the surrogate and her partner.

As a step-parent, you may form an important and long term bond with a child who is not yours, but you will not have any automatic legal rights in their upbringing, even if you marry their mother. Parental responsibility can be obtained in this situation of the court makes a Child Arrangements Order that the child lives with the step parent on their own or with another person, when the step-parent adopts the child, when a Parental Responsibility Agreement is drafted and accepted or if a Parental Responsibility Order is granted by the court.

Challenges and Legal Support

Parental responsibility can sometimes become a tricky issue, especially when parents have separated or divorced, as both parents can still hold and exercise parental responsibility for a child after their own relationship has ended. The courts will not end any parental responsibility unless it is deemed that the child is at risk from harm by the parent. 

After a divorce or separation, then parents can disagree on the way in which the child should be brought up. If you are unable to agree on important decisions such as education and medical care, then the courts can have the power to determine the disputed issue themselves through a specific issue order or a prohibited steps order and will make the decision according to what is in the best interest of the child.

At Lovedays Solicitors, we can help you to resolve any issues or disputes that you may have in relation to parental responsibility and the care of your child. This can be though putting agreements in place or applying for court orders to determine parental responsibility. Our expert team have vast experience in this field and can offer you clear and informed advice to help you find the best resolution for your situation. We will deal with your case sensitively and with the utmost care and understanding to help find the best solution for your family.

Parental responsibility is important when it comes to ensuring that a child is well cared for and looked after. Making significant decisions for them should be something that all parents can agree on, whether they are married, divorced or have never been in a relationship. Parental responsibility should always have the best interests of the child at heart, and here at Lovedays Solicitors, we can ensure that this is the case. Our friendly and professional team can offer you guidance, support and advice on your situation and help you to find the best way of managing the issue of parental responsibility both for you and your child.


Frequently Asked Questions

When does parental responsibility end?

Parental responsibility will come to an end when the child reaches the age of 18, if they are adopted, at the time of the parents death or if a parental responsibility order expires or is discharged by the court.

Can a father lose parental responsibility?

If the father is married to the mother of the child, then they can only lose parental responsibility if the child is adopted. If the father is unmarried, then parental responsibility can also be removed if the court terminates the right due to an application being made or if they cancel a special order that gave them parental responsibility.

Can parental responsibility be taken away from the mother?

The mother can only lose parental responsibility if the child is adopted, however, the use of parental responsibility can be restricted by a court order.

Dealing with Joanne at Lovedays Family department was always a positive experience. She made sure I fully understood my legal situation and her communication style, always so clear and concise, helped me navigate my way through a difficult time.

I worked with Joanne Joyce and the team at Lovedays when my relationship broke down suddenly and I needed to understand my next steps in what was both a frightening, unexpected and complicated situation. Joanne was both supportive and informative and helped me gain closure swiftly, cleanly and without prolonged mitigation. I would recommend Lovedays highly to anybody who needs legal support.
Joanne was absolutely brilliant throughout the whole process of my family matter. Joanne provided sound pragmatic advice whilst being empathetic and truly supportive. Joanne was always quick and responsive at all times and always provided such sound advice, which I am and always will be so grateful for. Super professional service all around, delivered in a friendly and relaxed manner whilst providing reassurance at one of the most difficult and testing points in your life. I would not hesitate in recommending Joanne.
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    Get Support Today

    If you are facing challenges or uncertainties regarding parental responsibility, do not hesitate to reach out to Lovedays Solicitors for expert assistance. Our dedicated team is here to provide you with professional legal advice and support tailored to your unique situation. Whether you need help creating parental responsibility agreements, applying for court orders, or resolving disputes, we are committed to guiding you through every step with care and understanding.

    Contact us today to ensure that your child's best interests are protected and to find the best resolution for your family. Let us help you navigate the complexities of parental responsibility with confidence.

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