Personal Law

What exactly is Parental Responsibility? Who has it? How can I get it?

March 5, 2020

Parental Responsibility, commonly known as ‘PR’ deals with the care and upbringing of a child until they reach the age of 18 years.

There is no set list for the scope of parental responsibility however a few of the main ones are:

  1. Providing a home;
  2. Education
  3. Religious upbringing;
  4. Consenting to medical treatment;
  5. The child’s surname;
  6. Taking the child abroad and providing consent;
  7. Applying for or vetoing the issue of a child’s passport

The parent with whom the child lives with in the main, will by and large have the day to day decision making, such as bedtime routines, what the child eats, and when he or she does their homework.

Anyone with parental responsibility for a child should consult the other person with parental responsibility before making any important decisions.  

A common mistake most parents make is the belief that they do not have to seek permission to take the child abroad.  Actually, this is not the case.  If both parents have parental responsibility then they must both give consent.  If one parent has parental responsibility and the other does not, then that is a different matter and the parent with parental responsibility can take the child out of the country for up to 28 days.

Any person with parental responsibility may also contact their child’s nursery, school, GP surgery and ask for any reports or information pertaining to their child.  

So, who has Parental Responsibility?

In every case the mother will have parental responsibility. From December 2003, the law changed so that even if the father was not married to the mother, as long as he was named on the birth certificate, he automatically acquired parental responsibility.  

If an unmarried father is not registered on the birth certificate, then all is not lost. He can obtain parental responsibility by either marrying the mother, or by entering into a parental responsibility agreement, or by the mother re-registering the birth certificate. Parental Responsibility can also be obtained within Children Act Proceedings; however, it only lasts for the duration of the Order so far as providing for the child to live with that person.  

Once parental responsibility has been granted, this will remain in effect even if the father subsequently is divorced from the mother.  

What if the person concerned is a step-parent?  

A common misconception is that a person acquires PR by being a step-parent.  This is not the case, step-parents are not automatically granted PR. As a step-parent, it is possible to acquire PR by entering into what is known as a ‘parental responsibility agreement’, provided all parties who have parental responsibility agree.    

If no agreement can be reached, this does not mean that the step-parent will never acquire parental responsibility. The Court can assist if an application is brought before them for a parental responsibility order. It is important to remember however, that the parties must still be married.  Once a divorce is granted then parental responsibility can no longer be applied for or granted in an order.

So, when does parental responsibility end?  

Parental responsibility ends in a number of ways:

  1. When the child reaches 18 years;
  2. On the death of the child;
  3. On the making of a parental order, or adoption order, when parental responsibility is transferred to the person whose favour the order is made;
  4. In the case of non-parents who are named in a Child Arrangements Order as people who the child is living with, parental responsibility ends when the provisions in the order also come to an end.

The Local Authority can also share parental responsibility with the parents, in certain circumstances, for example if they have serious concerns about the welfare of the child.  However, parental responsibility will only be in force whilst any order remains.

We offer a free, 15-minute, pre-bookable phone call with one of our experienced family law team. Alternatively, we offer a fixed £99 fee inc VAT  for a 45-minute meeting with one of our highly experienced family team. If you would like some confidential advice about a family legal issue, contact us today to book a meeting. Call 01795 742291 or email enquiries@jarmans-solicitors.co.uk