Parental Responsibility

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 the child's property”. The main areas of parental responsibility are:

  • 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

Holding parental responsibility does not mean the child has to live with that person. What it does mean is major decisions in the child's life, should normally be taken by all persons with parental responsibility, by agreement where possible. It also gives the authority to make emergency decisions, such as emergency medical treatment, without having to consult the other parent. Parental responsibility does not give a right to interfere with the day to day life of the child.

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Establishing Parental Responsibility

Who has Parental Responsibility?

Parental responsibility can be held as of right, by agreement, or by Court Order. Inclusion on the birth certificate after 2003 provides automatic parental responsibility for a child. A positive Paternity test will greatly enhance your chances to be given parental responsibility.

By Right

The natural mother automatically has parental responsibility for her child from birth.

A father usually has parental responsibility if he is:

  • Married to the child’s mother when the child is born
  • Listed as the father on the birth certificate, for births registered on or after 1 December 2003 (England and Wales).He does not automatically have parental responsibility if the birth was registered before that date.
  • Adoptive parents jointly hold parental responsibility.
  • Same-sex parents who were civil partners at the time of the treatment will both have parental responsibility.
  • Had a Paternity DNA test to prove he is the natural father

If at a later time the parents divorce or dissolve their partnership, they will both keep parental responsibility.

By Agreement

Parental responsibility can be granted to:

Once filled in, take the agreement, together with the child’s birth certificate and a proof of your identity (passport or driving license), to your local county court or family court, where it can be signed and witnessed. Then you need to send 2 copies of the form to:

Principal Registry of the Family Division, First Avenue House, 42-49 High Holborn, London WC1V 6NP

By Court Order

In the absence of any agreement, you will need to apply for a court order to get parental responsibility. You need to be connected to the child, such as their father, step-parent or 2nd female parent. Where you are in a same-sex relationship, the law is not very straightforward (or logical) at the moment, so we suggest speaking to us to find out where you stand, particularly if you are a gay man and considering conceiving with a lesbian couple.

Where a Child Arrangement order for residency is made in favour of the father and he does not have parental responsibility, the court must make a parental responsibility Order for him.

On an application by the father, parental responsibility will normally be granted, unless there is good reason not to, such as the father only seeking this to be able to harass the mother. The court considers the degree of commitment the father has shown or has sought to show to the child when reaching its decision.

How much does a court order cost?

A court order presently costs £215, but you may be able to get help with court fees, if you’re on benefits or a low income. To apply, simply fill in a C1 application form for a court order and send it to your local county court or family court.

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