What Does Parental Responsibility Mean and Do I Have It?

28 September 2016

By Family Law & Divorce Solicitor Sarah Milner

When a relationship breaks down and there are children involved, most parents will immediately think about how this will impact their children.

Important questions will need to be considered such as where the children will live, who will be their main carer, how you and your ex-partner will arrange access and maintain contact, and how to arrange shared parenting.

But perhaps one of the biggest questions will be about Parental Responsibility. We explain what Parental Responsibility is so you can understand if you have it, and what Parental Responsibility means for you and for your children.

What Does Parental Responsibility Mean?

In English Law (legal system in England and Wales), all mothers have Parental Responsibility and so do most fathers. This means they have rights and responsibilities for their children. Parental Responsibility means that you have responsibility to provide basic needs for your children, such as a home. You need to keep your children safe, as well as make decisions about their upbringing. This could be about their education and schooling, their religious choices and any medical treatment they may need.

You’re also responsible for naming your child and agreeing to any changes in their name and looking after their property. Their property could include any inheritance placed into a Trust for them or even a settlement payment made for a personal injury claim.

Do I Have Parental Responsibility for My Child?

If you are the child’s mother, you will automatically have Parental Responsibility for your child from birth. If you are the child’s father, you will automatically have Parental Responsibility if you are married to the child’s mother or if you are in a civil partnership at the time.

Fathers now have automatic Parental Responsibility for their child if they are registered on the child’s birth certificate. This right was given back to fathers in 2003 when the law was changed.

Fathers can also get Parental Responsibility by entering into an agreement with the mother or by making an application to Court. The Court would then decide if a Parental Responsibility Order or Child Arrangement Order should be made in their favour.

Same sex couples who are not married or in a civil partnership can apply for Parental Responsibility, jointly register the birth together or by making a Parental Responsibility Agreement.

How Much Does a Parental Responsibility Cost?

At Co-op Legal Services our fixed fee Parental Responsibility Agreement costs £240 including VAT. In addition to our fixed fee a Court fee of £215 is payable to the Court when the application is submitted.

How Can I Apply for Parental Responsibility?

You will need to be connected to the child / children in some way. This could be as a father, a grandparent, step-parent or second male or female parent in a same sex relationship. It’s important to understand that more than 2 people can have Parental Responsibility for a child.

The easiest way if you are a father wanting to get Parental Responsibility and the mother agrees, is to sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement. Our Family Law Solicitors can help you complete the application form and get it signed off and witnessed at the Family Court.

If you cannot reach an agreement with your ex-partner call us for initial legal advice so we can help you apply to the Court to obtain Parental Responsibility.

Can I Lose Parental Responsibility?

If you automatically have Parental Responsibility for a child or children, this cannot be taken away from you unless your child is adopted. But if you got Parental Responsibility because of a Court Order, your Parental Responsibility will end when the Order is discharged by the Court.

Want Help?

If you want help with any aspect of relationship breakdown, or if you are unsure about your parental rights and responsibilities for your children, please contact us. Our Family Law Solicitors are experts in advising on child arrangements and we offer initial legal advice and can discuss your options with you.

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