Aquiring Parental Responsibility


Biological mothers always have parental responsibility for their child. All other parents/guardians can acquire parental responsibility in various ways.

  • Where the parents are married at the time of the birth the father will automatically have parental responsibility.
  • In the case of children born after 1 December 2003, where the fathers details are registered on the birth certificate the father will also have parental responsibility.
  • If the parents are unmarried and the father is not named on the birth certificate a father can acquire parental responsibility by entering into an formal agreement with the mother, by subsequent marriage to the mother, by order of the Court or by obtaining a residence order (which governs where a child is to live) in relation to the child.
A parent’s Civil Partner can obtain parental responsibility in relation to their partner’s child either by entering into a parental responsibility agreement, or on application to the court. Parental responsibility gained in this way will not be lost if the partnership is subsequently dissolved.
  • There are distinct rules relating to the status of parents of children born as a result of assisted reproduction. The Government has announced its intention to review the relevant legislation, with the intention that civil partners and other same sex couples will have the same rights to be recognised as parents in those circumstances as heterosexual couples.
Parental responsibility is also obtained through the making of a residence order (an order made under the Children Act 1989), and through the act of adoption.

When a child is the subject of a care order in favour of a Local Authority, the local authority shares parental responsibility with the mother or both parents. Where a child is in care voluntarily, parental responsibility remains with the parents.

Persons who may have day to day responsibility for children such as teachers and childminders do not have parental responsibility but are under a duty of care to act as a reasonable parent would do to ensure the child’s safety and in emergency circumstances may take reasonable steps to promote a child’s welfare.

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