PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY: It defines the legal responsibilities and rights of a parent. The laws apply to all mothers and most fathers.
Having parental responsibility means you have some important roles of childcare. Thus, parental responsibilities include:
- Providing a safe home environment for the child.
- Protecting and maintaining the welfare of the child.
Note: It is possible to have parental responsibility for a child that you do not live with.
You may not always have a legal right to make contact with them. But, the other parent must keep you updated about the well-being and progress of the child.
Under the law, having the role of parental responsibility also applies to:
- Agreeing to medical treatment for the child.
- Choosing, and providing, an education for the child.
- Disciplining a naughty or unruly child.
- Naming the child and agreeing to any name changes.
- Taking care of the child’s belongings and property.
Note: Parents have other duties of care for children besides any parental responsibilities they have. For example, all parents must ensure their child gets supported ‘financially‘.
Who has the Parental Responsibility
After the birth, a child’s mother gets automatic parental responsibility. In most cases, the father would also get parental responsibility if he is either:
- Married to the mother of the child.
- Listed on the birth certificate. Note: this may be after a certain date. It would depend on where in the United Kingdom the child was born.
Note: An adult without automatic parental responsibility can apply to take on the role of caring for the child.
Births Registered in England and Wales
Often, both parents will have joint parental responsibility of a child. It would apply when both parents are already married at the time the child is born. The same is true for adults who ‘jointly’ adopt a child. Neither partner would lose parental responsibility even if they get divorced afterwards.
There are three ways that an unmarried father can get parental responsibility for his child:
- By ‘jointly‘ registering the birth of a child with the mother (from the 1st of December 2003).
- By getting a parental responsibility agreement with the mother of the child.
- By getting a Parental Responsibility Order issued by a court.
Births Registered in Scotland
Following childbirth in Scotland the father has parental responsibility if:
- He is already married to the mother when they conceive the child.
- He marries the mother at any point afterwards.
Births Registered in Northern Ireland
In Northern Ireland, a father gets parental responsibility if he is already married to the mother when the child is born.
What if the father marries the mother after the birth of a child? If he lives in Northern Ireland at the time of the marriage he would get parental responsibility.
An unmarried father would get parental responsibility if named, or he becomes named, on the birth certificate of the child. This rule applies from the 15th of April 2002 onward.
Births Registered Outside of the United Kingdom
What if a child is born abroad and then comes to live in the United Kingdom? In this case, it would depends on which UK country they live and settle in.
An unmarried father would get parental responsibility if his name is on the child’s birth certificate (from the 4th of May 2006).
Parental Responsibility for Same Sex Couples
As a rule, same-sex partners both have parental responsibility. This would be the norm if they were civil partners at the time of the treatment. For example, it would apply to donor insemination or fertility treatment.
What happens for same-sex partners who are not civil partners? In this case, the second parent can get parental responsibility by either:
- Applying for parental responsibility if a parental agreement was already made.
- Becoming a civil partner of the other parent and then either:
- Jointly registering the birth.
- Making a parental responsibility agreement.
How to Apply for Parental Responsibility
The rules of parental responsibility allow people to apply to the court to get it. If you are not the mother you must have some connection with the child (e.g. 2nd female parent, father, or stepfather. It is possible for two or more people to get parental rights and responsibilities for the same child.
Note: A different set of rules apply in Scotland under their ‘ordinary cause procedures‘.
Signing a Parental Responsibility Agreement
Take the correct agreement form to your local county court or to a family proceedings court. This is where it gets signed and witnessed. You will also need the child’s birth certificate and some proof of your identity (e.g. a driver licence).
Note: Send two (2) copies of the completed form to the Principal Registry of the Family Division address.
Principal Registry of the Family Division
First Avenue House
42-49 High Holborn
Applying for a Court Order
You cannot always get an agreement from the mother of the child. In this case, you can apply for a court order to get parental responsibility rights. The current cost of a court order is £232.
Fill in the application for an order (C1) and send it to your local county court or family proceedings court.
Note: People on benefits or a low income may qualify for help with court fees. Use form EX160A titled ‘How to apply for help with fees’. If partners use a surrogate to have a child they need to apply for a parental order to become a child’s legal parent.