Parental Responsibility

Parental Responsibility is defined in Section 3 of the Children Act 1989 as meaning:

"…all the rights, duties, powers responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property."

Who has Parental Responsibility & how can it be obtained?

If the parents of a child are married at the time of the child’s birth then they shall both have Parental Responsibility for the child. This Parental Responsibility is not lost by either party upon Divorce.

If the parents of a child are not married at the time of the child’s birth then the Mother shall automatically obtain Parental Responsibility, however, the Father will not. The Father can, however, obtain Parental Responsibility in the following ways:

  • for a child born after 1 December 2003, by jointly registering the birth with the Mother and his name appearing on the birth certificate  
  • by later marrying the child’s Mother
  • by entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the Mother’s consent
  • by making an Application to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order
  • by obtaining a Residence Order from the Court

NB. It should be noted that when a person obtains Parental Responsibility, this does not mean that others who have Parental Responsibility lose their rights.

What is Parental Responsibility?

The Children Act does not define exactly what is meant by Parental Responsibility, however on a practical day to day basis the following are key roles: 

  • providing a home for the child
  • having contact with and living with the child
  • protecting and maintaining the child
  • determining the religion of the child
  • providing consent to medical treatment
  • naming the child and agreeing to any change in the child’s name
  • being responsible for the child’s property 

What factors will the Court take into account when deciding whether to make a Parental Responsibility Order?

If an Application is made by the Father to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order then it will be necessary for him to show the following:

  • a degree of commitment to the child
  • that a degree of attachment exists between him and the child; and
  • that the Application is being made purely in the best interests of the child

The procedure when applying for a Parental Responsibility Order is similar to that detailed in the 'Children Act Matters' section. Please refer to the section 'Procedure on making an Application for a Children Act Order' for details.