parental responsibility

How does parental responsibility affect you and your children?

The Children Act 1989 introduced the concept of parental responsibility (PR), to focus the move away from parental rights over a child to responsibility for a child. The Act defines parental responsibility as “…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.”

In practice, this gives an individual the authority to make day to day and major decisions relating to a child’s life. PR is a diminishing responsibility, ultimately eroding when a child becomes mature enough to be responsible for areas of their own life, before they turn 18.

Parental responsibility is not automatically given to any individual, other than a child’s mother. Fathers will be granted PR if they are married to a child’s mother. Although there are numerous ways an unmarried father can acquire parental responsibility, this is usually done by being registered on the child’s birth certificate or by obtaining a child arrangements order from the court.

Comparable rules follow for children born to two female parents under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 and adopting parents under the Family Law Reform Act 1987.

The courts play a central role in circumstances that require parental responsibility to be removed from a party, although this is occurs relatively infrequently. Of greater occurrence, is their role in assigned responsibility to step-parents or new partners in a family unit. If provision of parental responsibility for a step-parent cannot be agreed by all pre-existing PR holders, it will be for the court to consider if this is appropriate.

This will be judged on a case by case basis, but always considering the welfare checklist, in assessing what decision is in the best interest of the child.

If you want to discuss parental responsibility with one of our specialist solicitors, contact us on 01234 889777 or 0207 177 9777 to take advantage of our free consultation offer. Serving Bedford and London, our lawyers can help you with your family law and divorce matters.


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