What is Parental Responsibility and what do I need to consider?

Parental Responsibility is defined by law as all rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent has in relation to a child and his or her property.

It provides authority for the person to make decisions about key matters in the child’s life, such as where they will live, their education and any medical treatments they should require. Whilst this is the case, in the event of an emergency, someone who is caring for a child can seek medical assistance without Parental Responsibility.

In most instances, Parental Responsibility ends when a child turns 18, however in some circumstances it can end earlier by Court Order. The level of authority does in any event weaken as a child gets older and can start to make their own decisions provided that they have sufficient understanding and intelligence to consider the matter.

So, who has Parental Responsibility and who needs it?

A mother automatically acquires Parental Responsibility for a child from birth. However the law is slightly different for a father. Fathers usually have Parental Responsibility provided they are married to the mother at the time of the birth or if they marry the mother after the event.

In the case of unmarried parents, the father only has Parental Responsibility if he:

  1. Registers his name on the child’s Birth Certificate; or
  2. Obtains a parental responsibility order from a Court; or
  3. Has a parental responsibility agreement with the child’s mother.

In addition to biological parents, there are a number of parties who may acquire Parental Responsibility for a child including adoptive parents, step parents, their guardian, a second female parent, someone named as a person they are to live with under a child arrangements order or the local authority where there is a care order – The process for making an application differs in each of these cases and legal advice should be sought in all instances to ensure that you are fully informed.

It is important to note that more than one person can hold Parental Responsibility at any time and each can make decisions independently of the other. Some decisions do however require joint agreement (or leave of the court), such as taking a child out of the UK whilst under the age of 16, other than someone named in a Child Arrangements Order as a person with whom a child is to live can take the child out of the UK for up to one month in any 12 month period.

In the event of a dispute arising between parties, for example regarding which school the child should attend, an application can be made to the Court for a Specific Issue Order about the issue in dispute.

If you would like to discuss applying for, or challenging a matter raised by a person with Parental Responsibility, please contact Price Slater Gawne on 0161 6155554.