What Is Parental Responsibility?

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Parental responsibility is a legal term commonly encountered by those separating from their partner or spouse and are looking to make arrangements regarding children. During such an emotional and tumultuous time, it can be challenging to grasp what having parental responsibility, or not having it, means for both you and your children.

In this article, we will explore the definition of parental responsibility and the rights of both mothers and parents in situations where relationships have broken down.

What Does Parental Responsibility Mean?

Parental responsibility is defined in Section 3(1) of the Children Act 1989 as being “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 with parental responsibility must provide a home for the child and protect and maintain the child. They are the people responsible for making decisions, such as agreeing to medical treatment, choosing and providing education and looking after the child’s property.

Parental responsibility lasts until a child turns 18, from which point they are responsible for making their own decisions.

Who Has Parental Responsibility?

Mothers automatically have parental responsibility from birth. Fathers have parental responsibility if they are either:

  • Married or in a civil partnership with the child’s mother
  • Listed on the birth certificate

Fathers who are not married to or in a civil partnership with the child’s mother do not automatically have parental responsibility, unless they jointly register the birth of the child. To obtain parental responsibility they can either voluntarily enter into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother of the child or obtain a Parental Responsibility Order.

In same-sex partnerships, a second female parent who was married to or in a civil partnership with the child’s mother at the time of conception also has automatic parental responsibility, unless the child was conceived under certain circumstances.

Individuals who do not have automatic parental responsibility include step-parents and grandparents.

Parental Responsibility And Separation

Parental responsibility is not taken away in the event of separation or divorce. If you have parental responsibility, then you still have to maintain your children, and you also have the right to be involved in decisions regarding their education and healthcare.

What’s more, parents without parental responsibility still have a duty towards their children. For example, they are still able to apply for court orders related to the child, or apply for reasonable contact with the child if they are in care.

Family Law Help And Advice From Salmons Solicitors

During a relationship breakdown, it can be difficult to see the woods for the trees, especially in emotionally charged situations. In particular, separation or divorce can be a great source of stress and anxiety if you are unsure of your rights and responsibilities. In these situations, it is best to seek help and advice to assist you in making the right decisions for your family and your future.

Here at Salmons Solicitors, our team of experts in family law are on hand to provide support, advice and guidance relating to family financial disputes, divorce, cohabitation matters, domestic violence, civil partnership disputes and private children law proceedings. To find out more, contact us today.