Parental responsibility (PR) is a legal relationship between adult and child.  Parental responsibility is defined 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 property’ as defined under Section 3(1) of the Children Act 1989.

What this means is that parental responsibility encapsulates all the decision-making power and authority needed to provide effective long term care for a child.  Those who hold parental responsibility can make decisions, for example about a child’s home, care, education, religion, medical treatment. 

Whilst the Children Act 1989 provides each holder of parental responsibility may act alone and without consulting the other, the Courts have made it clear that when there are parents who share parental responsibility for a child, it will be the duty of each parent to ensure the rights of the other parent are respected and the duty to consult has been applied to education, change of surname, religious decisions and medical issues.  

Who gets parental rights?

Birth mothers automatically have parental responsibility for a child as do fathers and second female parents if they are married or civilly partnered to the child’s mother at the time of birth.  Unmarried fathers have no parental rights of a child who was born before December 1st 2023 however if the child was born after that date and they are named on the Birth Certificate then they acquire parental responsibility.

The law allows for people other than biological parents to acquire parental rights which can be either by way of those with parental responsibility entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement or by Court Order.  So for example step-parents can acquire parental responsibility for a child of their spouse/civil partner by agreement with a child’s parent or by Court Order.  

Those named under a Child Arrangements Order with whom a child ia residing automatically obtains parental responsibility for the duration of the Child Arrangements Order. Local Authorities can obtain parental responsibility for a child through Court Order.  

There is also means of obtaining or removing parental rights as well as declaration and non-declaration as to parentage.  

It is recognised that birth parents will want to hold legal responsibility for a child as this allows them to be involved in decisions with regards to their child such as: 

  • Where the child should live
  • Where he should go to school
  • What to name the child 
  • Child’s religious upbringing
  • As well as medical issues

If you are a parent of a child but you do not have parental responsibility you cannot legally have an input in such matters.  This could mean if the child’s mother wants to move a child abroad but the unmarried father who does not hold parental responsibility does not wish for this to take place they are unable to challenge this decision.  This is one reason why people seek to hold parental responsibility to ensure that they are fully involved in decisions that need to be made with regards to their child.  

At Greens Solicitors we can assist and help with all issues relating to parental responsibility whether you seek to acquire this status or whether you seek to remove your parental responsibility.  We are able to guide you through the process and be able to advise you appropriately.  

If you would like to speak to our team of family solicitors then please do get in touch.