What is parental responsibility?
All mothers and most fathers have legal rights and responsibilities as a parent – known as ‘parental responsibility’.
A father will generally have parental responsibility if he is married to the child’s mother or is listed on the birth certificate after 2003.
If you have parental responsibility, your roles are to:
- provide a home for the child
- protect and maintain the child
If you have parental responsibility but you don’t live with your child, you don’t necessarily have the right to contact with them. The other parent however will still need to keep you updated about your child’s well-being and progress.
If you have parental responsibility you are responsible for:
- disciplining the child
- choosing and providing for the child’s education
- agreeing to the child’s medical treatment
- naming the child and agreeing to any change of name
- looking after the child’s property
All Parents have to ensure that their child is supported financially, whether they have parental responsibility or not.
Who has parental responsibility?
A mother automatically has parental responsibility from the time the child is born.
A father usually has parental responsibility if he’s:
- married to the child’s mother
- listed on the birth certificate after 2003
If you don’t already have parental responsibility then you can apply through the courts.
Births registered in England and Wales
If you are already married when your child is born, or if you’ve jointly adopted a child, both of you will have parental responsibility. If you divorce at a later date then you will both keep your parental responsibility.
If you are an unmarried father you can only get parental responsibility for your child in one of the following ways:
- jointly registering the birth of the child with the mother (from 1 December 2003)
- getting a parental responsibility agreement with the mother
- getting a parental responsibility order from a court
Births registered in Scotland
In Scotland the law is slightly different to England and Wales, a father will have parental responsibility if he’s married to the mother when the child is conceived, or if he marries her at any point afterwards.
An unmarried father in Scotland will also have parental responsibility if he’s named on the child’s birth certificate after 4th May 2006.
Births registered in Northern Ireland
In Northern Ireland, a father has parental responsibility if he’s married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth. If the father marries the mother after the child’s birth, he has parental responsibility if he lives in Northern Ireland at the time of the marriage.
An unmarried father has parental responsibility if he’s named, or becomes named, on the child’s birth certificate after 15th April 2002.
Births registered outside the UK
If your child was born overseas and you have come to live in the UK, your parental responsibility will depend upon which UK country you are now living in.
Same-sex parents and Civil partners
Same-sex partners who were civil partners at the time of the treatment will both have parental responsibility.
For same-sex partners who aren’t civil partners, the 2nd parent can get parental responsibility by either:
- applying for parental responsibility if a parental agreement was made
- becoming a civil partner of the other parent and making a parental responsibility agreement or jointly registering the birth
Applying for parental responsibility
Providing you are not the mother of the child concerned you can apply to court to get parental responsibility. You will need to be connected to the child in some way for example the father, a step parent or 2nd female parent etc.
It is also worth noting that more than two people can have parental responsibility for the same child.
If you have any questions regarding parental responsibility or if you would like one of our family solicitors to assist you with an application, please fill in the form on this page.
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