Many people assume both biological parents will acquire parental responsibility following the birth of their child. However, only the biological mother will automatically have parental responsibility.
A father can acquire parental responsibility through a number of ways:
- If the father is married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth, they will automatically have parental responsibility for that child.
- For unmarried fathers, parental responsibility can be acquired:
- By being registered on the child’s birth certificate; or
- Entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother and registering this with the Central Family Court; or
- Obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order from the court; or
- Having a ‘lives with’ Child Arrangements Order; or
- Adopting the child; or
- Becoming the child’s guardian.
What is parental responsibility?
Parental responsibility means ‘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’ (Section 3(1) Children Act 1989).
This means an individual with parental responsibility can make decisions about their child’s education, medical treatments, name, accommodation as well as their every day care.
Importantly, even if a child’s father does not have parental responsibility, they still have a duty to provide maintenance for that child. Further information can be found on the Child Maintenance Services website – Child Maintenance Service: What child maintenance is – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
When does parental responsibility end?
Parental Responsibility ends automatically when the child reaches the age of 18 or by court order. However, it is worth noting that parental responsibility diminishes as a child grows older depending on the child’s maturity and understanding.
Do I need to make decisions with the other person with parental responsibility?
For day-to-day parenting decisions, you do not need to consult the other person with parental responsibility. For big decisions, such as deciding which school your child should attend, medical decisions or changing your child’s name, you should seek agreement from the other person who has parental responsibility.
What happens if we cannot agree a decision for our child?
If you cannot reach agreement directly, you could try resolving the dispute at mediation or through solicitor correspondence.
If neither of these out-of-court options work, you may need to apply to the court for a Specific Issue Order.
If you would like more information about how our specialist family team can help you and your family, please click here.
Stephanie Vyas is an Associate Solicitor in the Family Team at Gardner Leader. She qualified as a solicitor in July 2019 and specialises in all matters of family law.
She has a keen interest in private children matters and frequently represents clients with:
- Resolving child arrangements disputes;
- Internal and international relocation cases;
- Disputes relating to the exercise of parental responsibility such as education decisions and medical decisions.
Stephanie’s highly focused and bespoke approach has been recognised by her clients who have praised her ‘efforts, patience and support’. She is mindful of her role in representing clients during an incredibly emotional chapter in their lives and prides herself on providing realistic and empathetic advice.
Stephanie can also advise on all areas of family law including divorce proceedings, financial arrangements, cohabitation disputes and nuptial agreements.