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Parental Responsibility

Parental Responsibility Order Solicitors UK

 

Biological mothers always have parental responsibility for their children. Usually, a father does if he is either married to the child's mother or listed on the birth certificate, and the same applies to anyone who is granted an adoption order or a parental order.

If someone wants to acquire parental responsibility, for example a parent's partner or anyone else who is caring for a child in practice, they will need to take legal steps to obtain it through a court order.

Although a child can only have two legal parents, there is no limit to how many people can share parental responsibility.

At Clifford Johnston, we are here to give you all the support you need regarding Parental Responsibility.

If you are unable to reach an agreement regarding child custody and contact or want some information about Parental Responsibility you can contact us at Clifford Johnston.

Our experienced Family Law Solicitors regularly help families to deal with Parental Responsibility issues, with the child’s best interests at the centre of all of our advice.

What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental Responsibility has been defined in s 3(1) Children Act 1989 as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and their property”.

When a parent has Parental Responsibility for their child, they have a say in how the child is raised, they can receive certain information such as medical records and they have the ability to consent on matters on behalf of the child.

What does Parental Responsibility mean in practical terms?

Those who have Parental Responsibility can have a say in the important decisions about how a child is raised, including:

  • the child’s education
  • registering or changing the child’s name
  • appointing a guardian for the child in the event of a parent’s death
  • consenting to medical treatment
  • accessing medical records
  • consenting to take the child abroad
  • representing the child in legal proceedings
  • choosing the child’s religion

A person who is responsible for a child on a daily basis in practical terms, might also want to acquire parental responsibility to enable them to be able to make the important decisions outlined above.

Sometimes it may be necessary for relatives to ask for Parental Responsibility to be granted to them if a parent who has parental responsibility is not acting in the best interests of the child.

This is where a Family Law Solicitor can help make the necessary applications to the Court to adjust the legal situation for the benefit of the child or children concerned.

Who has Parental Responsibility for a child?

If you want to make an application to the court for a parent to lose Parental Responsibility you need to know who currently has Parental Responsibility. Mothers automatically have Parental Responsibility. Only married fathers or those in civil partnerships with the mother of their child will automatically gain Parental Responsibility. Fathers will not lose their rights on divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership. Same-sex parents have Parental Responsibility as long as they were married/civil partners to the biological mother at the time of conception. Stepparents don’t have automatic Parental Responsibility and neither do Grandparents.

How do you get Parental Responsibility?

Those who do not have automatic Parental Responsibility can gain it through signing a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother and applying to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order.

How can a mother lose Parental Responsibility?

If the child is adopted, then a mother will lose Parental Responsibility.

How can a father lose Parental Responsibility?

An unmarried father can gain Parental Responsibility through a Parental Responsibility agreement or court order, removal of Parental Responsibility can be made via an application made to the court. Termination of a father’s Parental Responsibility will only be made by the court under exceptional circumstances and with the child’s best interests in mind. The court won’t terminate Parental Responsibility when the child refuses contact, the father is absent, or won’t pay child support.

Removal of Parental Responsibility

Behaviour has to be extreme for the court to justify terminating the father’s Parental Responsibility. Being absent or inconsistent doesn’t fall under this category. A court has the responsibility to ensure a child doesn’t come to harm therefore if a parent was denying essential medical treatment, or being abusive, this could be grounds for a court to consider removing Parental Responsibility.

Although the court doesn’t usually take away a father’s Parental Responsibility there are certain orders that judges have to protect children, these include child arrangements orders, specific issues, or prohibited steps orders. The orders don’t remove parental rights but can limit the role a father plays in a child’s life when it is in the child’s best interest for their father to be less involved in their life.

How can fathers who are not married to or in a civil partnership with the mother obtain Parental Responsibility?

Fathers who are not married or in civil partnerships with the mother are able to acquire Parental Responsibility when they marry or enter a civil partnership with the mother, or if their name is on the birth certificate or by entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother. They can also gain Parental Responsibility By being named in a Child Arrangements Order as a parent with whom the child shall live, either in a shared arrangement with the other parent.

If I do not have Parental Responsibility, will I still have responsibilities for my child?

Child maintenance and Parental Responsibility laws are treated completely separately.  Unmarried fathers who do not have Parental Responsibility still have a duty to their children and to provide them with child support maintenance. Unmarried fathers who don’t have Parental Responsibility also have some rights, such as the automatic right to apply to the court for some court orders in regard to his child, and he has a right to have reasonable contact with his child if the child is in Local Authority care.

Can Parental Responsibility be transferred?

Someone with Parental Responsibility is unable to transfer their responsibility to another person. Parental Responsibility cannot be completely transferred to another person but can be shared. You can assign the responsibility of looking after a child to a partner, childminder, teacher, friend, or relative, however, whoever has Parental Responsibility is still liable and responsible to ensure that appropriate arrangements are made for the child. Temporary carers don’t have Parental Responsibility but are allowed to do what is reasonable for safeguarding or protecting the child’s welfare.

Do people with Parental Responsibility have to agree before a decision is made?

In many circumstances, decisions can be made by one Parental Responsibility holder. It is not always essential to require the consent of another if they have Parental Responsibility. For instance, a school may only have to gain consent from one person with Parental Responsibility to take the child on a school trip. When a parent strongly objects, they can gain a Prohibited Steps Order from the court to avoid this taking place; the court acts in the interest of the child and for what they believe is best for them.

If there is a major decision that needs to be made concerning a child’s life, then all those with Parental Responsibility must agree. For instance, if one parent requests to change the child’s name, move abroad with the child, or put the child up for adoption, all those with Parental Responsibility need to agree.

What happens when parents don’t agree on a major decision relating to the child?

When parents can’t agree on a decision relating to the upbringing of their child, they

can attempt family mediation.  Mediation is there to reduce conflict and to help to resolve any disputes amicably.

For certain mediation services, parents will be seen apart and then they will come together to see if they can reach a compromise. Other mediation services will see parents at the same time, and on some occasions with their solicitor or a representative present.

When an agreement cannot be reached either parent can apply to the court for a Specific Issue Order or a Prohibited Steps Order. The parent does not have to have Parental Responsibility to do this. This order is essentially asking the court to provide a decision on behalf of the parents.

The decision is always based on what the court views as being in the best interests of the child.

Contact Our Expert Parental Responsibility Lawyers Today

We regularly help local families with all matters relating to parental responsibility so for professional, confidential advice contact us today.

Our friendly team will deal with your enquiry sensitively and with understanding, so contact us today for helpful and supportive advice.

Our Child Law Solicitors are based at both of our offices and their vast experience makes them an integral part of our team of Family Solicitors in Stockport & in Manchester.

With offices in Stockport (Heaton Moor) & Manchester (Burnage), our expert family solicitors are easily accessible.  We represent clients not only locally and throughout Stockport, Cheshire, Lancashire & Manchester but also across the United Kingdom. You can count on us to help and guide you whatever your challenge or circumstance.

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