Posted by familylaw on 20th December 2011

In England and Wales Parental Responsibility for a child is defined in the Children Act 1989 as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent has in relation to the child and his property”.

Having Parental Responsibility for a child enables a parent to make day-to-day decisions in respect of their child and the right to be consulted, about matters such as education, religion and medical treatment. Any parent with Parental Responsibility can also, for example, object to any change of a child’s name.

Who has parental responsibility?

When a child is born the mother automatically has Parental Responsibility . The father does also but only if he was married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth or subsequently marries the mother. If the father is unmarried, he automatically has Parental Responsibility for the child if the child’s birth is registered after the 1 December 2003 and the father’s name is on the child’s birth certificate.

Will you lose parental responsibility if you get divorced?

No – you do not lose Parental Responsibility if you get divorced; you will carry on being the child’s full legal father whether or not the child lives with you.

Unmarried Fathers

If your child’s birth is registered before the 1 December 2003, you do not have Parental Responsibility, even if you are named on the birth certificate as the father. In fact unmarried fathers have no legal rights or status whatsoever, other than a duty to pay the Child Support Agency following an assessment of means.It is recommended that unmarried fathers acquire Parental Responsibility giving them the same rights in the decision making process relating to bringing up the child as enjoyed by married fathers.

This can be obtained in the following ways:

  1. By the mother agreeing to and signing a Parental Responsibility Agreement. This is then lodged with the Principle Registry of the Family Division in London.
  2. By the father obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order by an application being made to the court.
  3. By the father obtaining a Residence Order which would automatically grant him Parental Responsibility.
  4. By marrying the mother.

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