After a separation or divorce it can feel as if one parent alone has the power to make all the decisions for a child, from when they can see the other parent to the school they go to. In other families one parent can feel as if only they have been left to shoulder responsibility for the child.

The law says most parents have ‘Parental Responsibility ‘for their child. Even if a parent doesn’t have Parental Responsibility for their child they will still be liable to pay child support or be able to make court applications , for example to see their child.

Parental Responsibility means the obligations and responsibilities a parent has for a child. If both parents have Parental Responsibility they both have a say in how their child should be brought up and in making major parenting decisions.

If a parent has Parental Responsibility they have a right to receive certain information, such as school reports and copy medical records.

A person has Parental Responsibility for a child if;

  • You are the birth mother or have adopted a child
  • You are the father of a child and are or were married to the child’s mother
  • You are the father of a child and although not married to the child’s mother you are named on the child’s birth certificate as the father ( provided the child was born after the 1 December 2003)
  • You are the unmarried father of a child and have signed a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the child’s mother
  • You are the unmarried father of a child and the court has made a Parental Responsibility Order
  • If a child is living with you under a Child Arrangements order
  • You have had a child via a surrogacy arrangement and have a Parental Order
  • You are a step parent of a child and have got Parental Responsibility by signing an Agreement or Court Order

For most families, the concept of ‘Parental Responsibility’ isn’t something that concerns them on a daily basis. It is only when parents can’t agree on what is best for their child, such as should the child;

  • move abroad with one parent
  • move to a different area of the country with one parent
  • change school
  • change surname
  • change religion

that parents start to think about ‘rights’.

The court has the power to make decisions about what is in a child’s best interests if parents are not able to come to an agreement. In most family circumstances it is helpful for parents to take early specialist advice on the options and if they can’t reach an agreement direct to use Mediation to help them reach a resolution.

We can help parents obtain Parental Responsibility and give advice on any parental disagreements over what is in a child’s best interests.