Parental Responsibility provides a parent with the responsibility of making all the important decisions in their child’s life. This includes a child’s education, religion and medical care but also day to day decisions, for example, nutrition, recreation and outings. Parental Responsibility and the lack thereof often only becomes an issue after you go through a divorce or separation.

Who has Parental Responsibility and how can I get this?

Married couples have joint parental responsibility, for unmarried couples the mother has this and so does the father if he was named on the birth certificate for any child born after 1 December 2003.

An unmarried father can obtain parental responsibility by:

  1. agreeing this with the mother of the child and entering into an agreement
  2. applying to the Court and obtaining an Order from the Court
  3. being appointed a guardian by the mother or the Court
  4. marrying the mother

How does this affect me if we are separated and I do not live with my child?

If you have parental responsibility then you are still responsible for any decisions made on behalf of your child. Even if both parents do not live together they must involve the other in agreeing for example, where their child should attend school, receive medical care and changing their name. Therefore, if you wish to change your child’s surname you will need to have the permission of the other parent in order to do this.

Agreements should also be sought when deciding to take your child on holiday. Neither parent can take their child on holiday outside the UK without the agreement of the other parent. That agreement should not be unreasonably withheld. A holiday abroad is usually a very positive event and in the interests of the child. If there is a disagreement between the parties either party can apply to the court.

Parental Responsibility is an important responsibility given to parents, and in some cases other relatives, to protect a child and for parties to act in the child’s best interests.

If you need any advice on Parental Responsibility, or whether you can make a decision alone regarding a child,  you can arrange an appointment to speak with any one of our experienced family lawyers for further advice.