Parental Responsibility is a legal term which defines the set of rights and responsiblities which some parents have in relation to their children.
The Children’s Act 1989 defines Parental Responsibility 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.”
Even if a parent does not have Parental Responsibility, he may still have a number of obligations towards that child e.g. to support them financially.
Who Has Parental Responsibility?
All mothers automatically have parental responsibility for their children.
In England & Wales, fathers will automatically have parental reponsibility if they are married to the child’s mother at the time of birth, or if they jointly adopt the child.
An unmarried father can get parental responsibility for his child in 1 of 3 ways:
- jointly registering the birth of the child with the mother (from 1 December 2003)
- getting a parental responsibility agreement with the mother
- getting a parental responsibility order from a court
Same-sex civil partners will both have parental responsibility if they were civil partners at the time of the treatment, eg donor insemination or fertility treatment.
For same-sex partners who aren’t civil partners, the 2nd 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 or jointly registering the birth
What is Parental Reponsibility?
If you have parental responsibility, your most important roles are to provide a home for the child and protect and maintain the child. You will also have the right to make decisions about the child’s care and upbringing. Important decisions in a child’s life must be agreed with anyone else who has parental responsibility.
If you have parental responsibility for a child then you will have a say in:
- The name of your child
- How your child is educated
- Their religious upbringing, if any
- Medical treatment
- Where and with whom they live
- Whether and when they may travel abroad (permanently or temporarily)
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