Do I have Parental Responsibility?
You can ask our solicitors for advice if you have parental responsibility using the question box on the front of our website or the following article may answer your questions.
You may have seen the term ‘parental responsibility’ used in situations that relate to child care and welfare, but you are not exactly sure what it means. In a legal context, it is important to understand what parental responsibility means and the implications of this term.
Under Section 3(1) of the Children’s Act 1989, parental responsibility is a phrase used to describe the duties, rights, powers, authority and responsibilities that a parent of a child has from a legal perspective in relation to the child and their property.
Section 2(7) expands this further and states that where there are two or more people with responsibility over a child, each parent can act alone in making decisions that are in the best interests of the child.
Parental Responsibility – Explanation
In line with Section 2(1) of the Act, when parents of a child are married, they both share equal responsibility. If civil partners are parents as specified in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 they too will share responsibility.
When the parents of a child are either not married or in a civil partnership, then it becomes slightly more complex. The mother will automatically assume responsibility when a child is born while the father (or female parent in respect of a civil partnership) will need to undertake a series of steps to obtain responsibility as outlined in Section 2(2) and Section 2(2a) of the Children’s Act 1989.
Section 4(1) of the Children’s Act 1989 states that a father can obtain responsibility in several ways:
- Through registering as the child’s father on the Birth Certificate
- Obtaining an agreement with the child’s mother
- Applying for an Order which is granted by the Court
Alternatively, another female or male parent can acquire responsibility under a civil partnership using Section 4ZA of the Children’s Act 1989.
They will have to:
- Officially register as the child’s other parent on the Birth Certificate of the child
- Acquiring a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother of the child
- Making an application through the Court to obtain a Parental Responsibility Order
Step Parents can acquire responsibility in a number of ways:
- Step parents can, under Section 4A of the Children’s Act 1989 obtain responsibility through an agreement with both parents who already have responsibility or by obtaining a parental responsibility order which is sought through the Courts.
- Alternatively, the holder of a residence order for the child can acquire responsibility once a residence order has been granted. A local authority can also gain responsibility when a care order is issued by the court.
Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child 1989 states that any party who holds parental responsibility should make sure that a child is capable of making their own decisions. Children should be given the opportunity to express their opinion on issues that will directly affect them.
These views should be considered alongside the age and maturity level of the child.
Parental responsibility is not just assigned to biological parents; it can be applied in a number of different ways and there are countless scenarios which can result in being assigned parental responsibili