How to remove parental responsibility
16 July 2021
It is extremely rare for the court to remove parental responsibility from a parent. The only way to remove parental responsibility is through an application to the court and these applications are only successful in exceptional circumstances.
If you have concerns about the care or welfare of your child, there are other options available, such as a child arrangements order, a specific issue order or a prohibited steps order. These options are generally more suitable than trying to remove parental responsibility.
Removing parental responsibility
Parental responsibility will only ever be removed in very specific circumstances. A mother of a child can only lose parental responsibility for her child if the child is adopted. Fathers also have significant rights when it comes to their parental responsibilities. The success of an application to remove parental responsibility from a father will partly depend on how the father gained parental responsibility in the first place.
The court will not remove parental responsibility from a father just because:
- he has moved away or doesn't see his child on a regular basis
- he has separated from the child's mother
- he isn’t paying child support
- he has committed a criminal offence, unless the type of offence committed could pose serious risk to a mother and child
A father’s parental responsibility would only ever be removed in exceptional circumstances, providing the judge thinks it's in the child’s best interests.
Other court orders, including child arrangements orders and prohibited steps orders, are more appropriate in most circumstances, rather than trying to remove parental responsibility.
Who will automatically have parental responsibility?
A mother (who gives birth to the child) will have parental responsibility as soon as a child is born.
The father's position is not quite as simple. If the father is married to the child’s mother when the child is born, he will automatically have parental responsibility. If the parents are not married but the father’s name is added to the child’s birth certificate (for births after 2003), he will get parental responsibility when the child’s birth is registered. If the father isn't named on the birth certificate, but marries the mother at a later date, he will automatically get parental responsibility then.
How can someone get parental responsibility?
Fathers can get parental responsibility by entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the child’s mother. They can also apply for a court order that grants parental responsibility or that says the child should live with them. If parental responsibility has been granted through a court order then this parental responsibility will be in place as long as the court order is in force. This could include a Special Guardianship Order.
Step-parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles can also get parental responsibility for a child, but usually only if they are involved in caring for the child. They would have to apply to the court for an order for parental responsibility, an order for the child to live with them, or an order for Special Guardianship.