Parental Responsibility - who has it and what is it?

There is a difference to note between who can be legal parents and who can have parental responsibility. Whilst the law would only recognise a maximum of two legal parents, parental responsibility can be held simultaneously by more than two people/organisations at the same time.

Birth mothers automatically acquire parental responsibility for their child.

Father and second female partners can acquire parental responsibility in a number of ways, some of the most common are:

·         Being married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth;

·         By being registered on the child’s birth certificate as father/parent;

·         By entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the birth mother;

·         By Court order.

Parental responsibility, once acquired, automatically expires when the child turns 18.

Parental responsibility for the child’s mother or married partner can be terminated by a parental order following a surrogacy arrangement or an adoption order. Unmarried fathers/second female parents’ parental responsibility can be terminated by Court order as well.

Parental responsibility is the legal relationship between adult and child separate from parenthood and is defined as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibility and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and their property.”

Put simply, parental responsibility encompasses all the decision-making power and authority needed to provide effective long-term care for a child and can include decisions on:

·         Child’s home;

·         Care;

·         Education;

·         Religion;

·         Discipline;

·         Medical treatment;

·         Emigration.

Parental responsibility can also be delegated for a short period of time. A common example is the signing of a permission slip for a school trip to allow the school professionals to make decisions regarding the child’s care and, if necessary, seek medical assistance.

There are of course limits to this responsibility and its application.

Therefore, it is important to take legal advice on your particular issue given the gravity of the decisions being made.

If you are unclear on your legal position, steps you can take or require some advice on a particular issue you are facing then please contact our offices on 0191 386 4843 (Durham), 01325 466221 (Darlington) 01609 766558 (Northallerton) to arrange an initial appointment with one of our family law specialists.

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