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Parental Responsibility 

With the introduction of the Children & Families Act 2014 there are additional ways to obtain parental responsibility including the power to give parental responsibility to the child’s father or a second female partner, by virtue of section 43 of the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Act 2008.  It is also possible to grant parental responsibility to a person who is not the child’s parent or guardian in cases where a Child Arrangements Order provides for the child to spend time with or otherwise have contact with (but not live with) that person for the duration of the Child Arrangements Order. 

What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental Responsibility is defined in the Children Act 1989 Section 3(1) as all the rights, powers, responsibilities and authority, which by law a parent of a child has, in relation to the child and its property.

It is often referred to as ‘PR’. 

Who has Parental Responsibility? 

Mothers who give birth to the child automatically have parental responsibility.  Fathers will automatically have parental responsibility in the following circumstances: 

  1. They are married to the mother. 
  2. They are named on the birth certificate and the birth was registered after 1st December 2003 if registered in England and Wales (the dates are different depending on which part of the UK the child was born in). 

How can a father obtain Parental Responsibility? 

  1. A father of a child can obtain Parental Responsibility by: 
  2. Marrying the child’s mother. 
  3. Entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the child’s mother. 
  4. Obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order from the court. 
  5. If the mother dies having appointed the father of the child as a guardian. 
  6. Having a Residence Order (as was)/a Child Arrangements Order for the child to live with him. 
  7. Obtaining an Adoption Order. 

What is a Parental Responsibility Agreement? 

This is a formal Agreement.  There are certain formalities to be complied with and it is registered at the Central Family Court in London.  The form is relatively simple to complete but does require ID and has to be witnessed before a Justice of the Peace, a Justice Clerk, an Assistant to the Justice Clerk or a Court Official authorised by the Judge to administer Oaths.  

The Parental Responsibility Agreement will automatically come to an end on the child’s 18th birthday and cannot be revoked by one person only.  It can only be brought to an end before the child’s 18th birthday by an Order of the court. 

How do I obtain a Parental Responsibility Order? 

A father or other person eligible to apply can make an application to the Family Court for a Parental Responsibility Order.  There is a specific application form to complete and a fee to pay the court. The mother and any other person with parental responsibility will have to be served with the application and the court will give an initial hearing date for the case to be timetabled to a final hearing if the matter cannot be agreed.  

When Parental Responsibility cannot be agreed 

In this instance, the court will apply the principle that the child’s welfare is the paramount consideration.  For example, if a father was applying, the court will generally look at the motive behind the father’s application; the degree of commitment shown to the child by the father and the degree of attachment between the father and the child.  There would usually have to be a good reason why the father should not obtain parental responsibility if he is playing a part in the child’s life. 

What does Parental Responsibility cover? 

The legal definition is not specific and there has therefore been litigation as to what it covers.  PR would include authority to consent to medical treatment; decisions about education; the ability to appoint a guardian for the child and being involved automatically in court proceedings relating to the child, including adoption. 

Who else can gain Parental Responsibility for a child? 

  • Any person who obtains a Residence Order/Child Arrangements Order for a child to live with them.  However the parental responsibility will only be in place for the length of time the Residence Order/Child Arrangements Order is in place.  The natural father will obtain PR automatically upon the granting of a Residence Order/Child Arrangements Order for a child to live with him.
  • A Local Authority upon the granting of a Care Order in its favour. 
  • A step-parent if married or the civil partner of a parent of the child, with the consent of every other person who has parental responsibility.
  • A testamentary guardian appointed in a Will by someone who has PR.
  • A father or second female parent by virtue of Section 43 of the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Act 2008.
  • Under a Child Arrangements Order which provides for the child to spend time or otherwise have contact (but not live) with the person who is not a parent or guardian of the child for the length of time as the Child Arrangements Order is in place.
  • A holder of a Special Guardianship Order gains PR but their PR can override others with PR.

Parental responsibility advice

The family lawyers at Bray & Bray approach each parental responsibility case on a bespoke basis, coming up with solutions which suit a specific situation.

If you and your partner are struggling to come to an agreement about parental responsibility, our professional and caring family law team is best placed to help.

Bray & Bray's family lawyers are based at each of our three main offices in Leicestershire.  Contact us to discuss an enquiry or a case you have or feel free to pop in and see us at your local office by clicking on the links below:

Leicester call us on 0116 254 8871.

Hinckley call us on 01455 639 900.

Market Harborough call us on 01858 467 181.

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