What automatic parental rights do biological parents have? Does this differ between mothers and fathers?

Biological mothers automatically have Parental Responsibility from the child’s birth. Biological fathers have Parental Responsibility if they are married to the child’s mother at the time of birth or marry after their birth or are registered on the child’s birth certificate (on or after 01/12/03). Where a child has been born by way of surrogacy then the process is different but ultimately the biological parents rather than birth mother will obtain Parental Responsibility.

What is Parental Responsibility and what happens if you don’t fulfil your duties?

Parental Responsibility means the legal rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority a parent has for the child and their property. Parental Responsibility allows a parent to make decisions about aspects of the child’s life such as where they live, their education, their religion and medical treatment. If a parent does not fulfil their duties in terms of meeting the child’s needs, they are at risk of Local Authority intervention.

How can a step-parent receive legal responsibility for a child? What conditions must be met?

It is possible for a step-parent to obtain Parental Responsibility. First they must be married to, or a civil partner of, a parent of the child who has Parental Responsibility. They can then be granted Parental Responsibility if all parties who have Parental Responsibility enter into a Parental Responsibility agreement. Alternatively they could adopt the child; have a child arrangements order stating that the child lives with them (which would give them Parental Responsibility for the length of the order); or apply for a ParentalRresponsibility Order.

Do both biological parents need to agree for a step-parent to receive Parental Responsibility for a child? What can be done if one parent won’t agree?

All those people with Parental Responsibility need to agree for a step-parent to receive Parental Responsibility through a Parental Responsibility agreement. If someone with Parental Responsibility does not agree, the step-parent will need to make an application to court.

If a step-parent separates from the biological parent, do they still have Parental Responsibility over the child?

Once Parental Responsibility has been obtained, it can only end by court order, or when the child turns 18. If a step-parent and biological parent separate and either wish for the step-parent’s Parental Responsibility to be revoked, they would need to apply for a Court Order. Unless the Parental Responsibility was given under a Child Arrangements Order in which case the Parental Responsibility is only valid for the length of the order, so if the order was amended to have their name removed they would no longer have Parental Responsibility unless a separate Parental Responsibility Order was made.

COVID-19: In these extraordinary times we recognise how difficult it is to find time to do everything, let alone seek legal advice. This is especially the case where you are living with your partner or spouse and are considering separating, or have your children with you during the day.

Therefore, we are now able to offer flexible telephone appointments to meet your personal needs, whether that is in the evenings, early mornings or weekends as well as our usual office hours. Our usual fixed fee of £180 including VAT for up to one hour still applies regardless of the time of the appointment. If making that initial call to book an appointment is difficult please email us at [email protected] in the first instance and we can arrange a meeting by email.