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Parental responsibility

Persons with parental responsibility have a legal status in a child’s life. They have the power to make decisions about the child’s life.

Parental responsibility is an expression defined in The Children Act 1989 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/her property”.

The mother of a child has parental responsibility automatically under the Children Act 1989.

A father who is married to the mother either at the time the child was conceived or at the time of the child’s birth also has parental responsibility.

From 1 December 2003, a father who is not married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth will have parental responsibility if registration or re-registration of birth takes place according to the provisions of the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 – that is, if his name is on the birth certificate.

This will only apply to children born after 1 December 2003 and not to children born before that date.

If the father marries the mother after the child is born he will acquire parental responsibility from the date of the marriage.

Anyone with a Residence Order relating to the child will also have parental responsibility so long as the order lasts or until the child is 16 years of age.

Parental responsibility lasts until a child is 18 years of age and reaches his or her majority.

When a father has parental responsibility, he is in the same legal position as the mother.

An unmarried father can obtain parental responsibility either by entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother or by obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order through the Court.

A Parental Responsibility Agreement can be prepared by Solicitors and needs to be signed by both parents before a Court Official such as a Magistrate. Evidence of identity will need to be produced when the Agreement is signed, together with the child’s birth certificate. A separate parental responsibility agreement will be needed for each child. When the agreement has been signed it is sent toLondon to be registered and from the date of registration, not the date of signature, the unmarried father has parental responsibility for the child. This will last until the child is 18 years of age.

A Parental Responsibility Order can be obtained from the Court by making an application. The Court will consider what is in the child’s best interests and look at the commitment the father has to the child and the father’s reasons for making the application as well as the attachment between the father and the child. It is usual for the Court to consider that it is in the child’s best interests that a father has a formal status in the child’s life and parental responsibility is usually granted. However, this is not always the case.

In exceptional circumstances, a Parental Responsibility Agreement or Order can be revoked by the Court.

A person with parental responsibility should be consulted on major issues in a child’s life.

A parent with parental responsibility is entitled to:

  • See school reports;
  • Attend parents’ evenings;
  • Give consent to medical treatment for the child;
  • Be a party to any Court proceedings relating to a child;

Before a child’s surname can be changed by the carer parent, the consent of other persons with parental responsibility will need to be obtained.

Before the carer parent takes the child to live abroad the consent of other parental responsibility holders will be needed.

The giving of parental responsibility to an unmarried father does not mean that he has the right to interfere in the day to day upbringing of children who live with their mother. This applies equally to fathers that were or still are married to the mother of the children.

If you have any questions or need any further advice, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will do our best to accommodate you.

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