Family Law

Parental Responsibility

Understanding parental responsibility and its implications is essential for all parents and caregivers, particularly if you are separating or divorcing and seeking to come to an agreement on arrangements for your children.  Having any conversation about the welfare of your children will be a sensitive one, and conflict can arise between parents, step-parents or grand-parents.  It is crucial in situations such as these that parental responsibility is recognised, understood and taken into account when moving forward.

Our expert Children Law specialists within our Family Law department explain the background to parental responsibility, answering those questions we are frequently asked.  Should you have any additional concerns, we can discuss your situation with you during a free initial conversation.


Parental Responsibility Frequently Asked Questions

What is parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility is a legal term that refers to the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities, and authority that a parent has in relation to their child. It allows parents to make important decisions concerning the child’s upbringing and welfare, and is at the very heart of protecting the best interests of the child.

Who automatically has parental responsibility?

In the United Kingdom, certain individuals automatically have parental responsibility:

  • Mothers: A child’s biological mother automatically has parental responsibility, regardless of her marital status.
  • Married Fathers: If the child’s parents are married to each other at the time of the child’s birth, the father automatically acquires parental responsibility.
  • Unmarried Fathers: If the child was born after 1st December 2003, an unmarried father can acquire parental responsibility by being named on the child’s birth certificate.

How can I get parental responsibility?

In addition to mothers and married fathers, you can acquire parental responsibility through various means:

  • Unmarried fathers where the child is born before 1st December 2003 can acquire parental responsibility through a formal agreement with the mother or by obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order from the Court.
  • Step-parents can acquire parental responsibility for their stepchild by obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order from the Court. This is usually done with the consent of the child’s biological parents.
  • Special Guardians, who are individuals caring for a child under a Special Guardianship Order, automatically have parental responsibility for the child.

What are the responsibilities and rights of those with parental responsibility?

Individuals with parental responsibility have the right to be involved in significant decisions concerning the child’s life, such as:

  • Education: Decisions about the child’s schooling and educational needs.
  • Healthcare: Consent to medical treatments and decisions about the child’s health and well-being.
  • Religious upbringing: Decisions related to the child’s religious or spiritual upbringing.
  • Name change: Agreement on any change to the child’s surname.

Do I still have parental responsibility after a separation?

Even if you are no longer in a relationship or living with the other parent, both parents retain your parental responsibility unless an order from the Court states otherwise. Parental responsibility is not affected by changes in living arrangements or contact arrangements.

Contact our Family Law Solicitors

If you have questions about parental responsibility or need to acquire or assert your rights in relation to your child, we can help. Our Child Law Solicitors can guide you through the legal process and ensure that your child’s best interests are protected.

Our Family & Relationships department has extensive experience in matters related to Parental Responsibility. We are here to provide expert advice and support to parents, step-parents, and guardians. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation initial consultation to discuss your specific situation and how we can assist you. Get in touch with one of our Family Solicitors from our offices in AndoverRomseySalisburyTotton and Witney by using the Contact Form, emailing or calling your local office: