Frequently Asked Questions
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What is parental responsibility?
Parental responsibility is not an easy concept to understand. It is defined in the Children Act 1989 as “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”.
A person who has parental responsibility has the right to be involved in major decisions concerning arrangements for a child e.g. education, medical treatment, change in residence. However, the acquisition of parental responsibility does not give a person the right to interfere in day to day arrangements for a child.
Do I have parental responsibility for my child?
A mother has automatic parental responsibility – so does a married father. An unmarried father will only have parental responsibility if the registration of the birth took place after 1.12.2003 and the father is named on the birth certificate.
I don’t have parental responsibility. How do I acquire it?
You can do this in two ways:
a) By entering into a written agreement with the mother on a prescribed form. This form has to be witnessed by a court official and is then sent to the Principal Registry of the Family Division in London and sealed copies are returned to each parent.
b) By applying for a court order. The courts rarely refuse a father an order for parental responsibility particularly if he can demonstrate commitment towards the child by contact and financial support.
I am a step-parent. Can I acquire parental responsibility?
It is possible to acquire parental responsibility in two ways:
a) You can enter into a written agreement with the parent or parents who already have parental responsibility for the child.
b) The court may grant a parental responsibility order.