What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental Responsibility is a number of rights and duties which a parent has in respect of a child. It is about the bigger and wider decisions about a child’s upbringing rather than the managing of day to day care. The following rights and duties are part of what constitutes Parental Responsibility:-

  • Having a say in the Child’s education.
  • Having a say in the child’s religion
  • Having a say in the child’ name
  • Having a say in the child’ medical treatment

It also encompasses the parent’s rights to information about their child. A parent with parental Responsibility is entitled to:-

  • Full information for the child’s school including school reports and school photos and details of parent’s evenings, school plays and school events. A parent with Parental Responsibility should be able to discuss their child with their child’s teacher and the Head of the school.
  • Full information about a child’s medical condition or treatment.
  • A request for consent if there is a request for the change of the child’s surname (this consent can be refused).
  • Consultation regarding medical treatment.

A person with Parental Responsibility does not have unilateral rights in relation to a child. If there are two parents with Parental Responsibility then those two parents will need to agree those bigger decisions. If they cannot agree then either parent can apply to the court to ask that a court order is made regarding the decision about the child which is not agreed.

Who has Parental Responsibility?

A mother always has Parental Responsibility for her child. 

A father has responsibility:-

  • If he is married to the mother at the time of his child’s birth or later marries his child’s mother
  • For any child born after 1 December 2003, the father has Parental Responsibility if he is named as the father on the Birth Certificate.
  • By a Parental Responsibility agreement with the mother
  • By a Parental Responsibility Order made by a Court
  • By a Residence Order made in his favour (but his Parental Responsibility only lasts whilst the Residence Order is in place)
  • By being appointed his child’s Guardian
  • By adopting his child

Most fathers now have parental responsibility for their child whether they were married to the mother or not if they are named as the father on the birth Certificate

Applying to the Court for Parental Responsibility

A father can apply to the Court to gain Parental Responsibility.  In considering an application from a father, the Court will take the following into account:

  • The degree of commitment shown by the father to his child
  • The degree of attachment between father and child
  • The father’s reasons for applying for the order

The Court will then decide to accept or reject the application based on what it believes is in the child’s best interest.

Once an unmarried father has acquired Parental Responsibility for a child, he shall cease to have that responsibility:-

1.         By an order of the Court made on the application of any person with parental responsibility;

2.         By an order of the Court made on the application of the child, with permission of the court, if it is satisfied that the child has sufficient understanding to make the proposed application.

Parental Responsibility is not intended to restrict the day to day decisions which have to be taken nor does the Parental Responsibility dictate which parent the child should live with or what contact the child has with the other parent.The parent with day to day care will naturally have to make the smaller and less significant day to day decisions for the child in their care.