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Parental Responsibility


Parental Responsibility refers to the legal rights a parent has over their child. They include the duties, powers, and responsibilities of a parent. Parental Responsibility came into effect in England according to Section 3 (1) of the Children Act 1989.

As per England and Wales’ legal framework, a mother has Parental Responsibility for her child from birth. For the father, it varies under different circumstances.

A parent with Parental Responsibility has several responsibilities. They must provide home, protection, education, and medical health facilities, as well as supporting the child financially.

For instance, if you have Parental Responsibility, you have a right to decide the school your child has to attend. Along with that, you have to play a crucial role in your child's overall well-being.

With Parental Responsibility, the parent has to name the child, agree with any name changes, and look after the child's properties. For separate parents, the parent who stays with the child should include the other parent with Parental Responsibility when deciding for the child.

When parents confront problems while deciding for their child, they can adopt a Special Issue Order or Prohibited Steps Order. By doing so, a judge can decide by duly considering the child's best interests. A parent who does not stay with their child can meet their child with the Parental Responsibility order.

What is Parental Responsibility?

Who has Parental Responsibility?

Since childbirth, the mother has Parental Responsibility in England. In the UK, a father gets Parental Responsibility if he has a marital relationship with the child's mother. He can receive Parental Responsibility if his name is present on the child's birth certificate too.

In England, a parent can receive Parental Responsibility if a couple jointly adopts a child. In such scenarios, both of them would have Parental Responsibility even if they get divorced in the future.

For unmarried parents, a father can receive Parental Responsibility if both parents jointly register their child's birth. If the couple did not mutually register their child's birth, the father can either request an agreement from the mother or apply for a court order in England.

For same-sex parents, the couple has equal rights if they are civil partners. With non-civil-partnered same-sex parents, the second parent can apply for Parental Responsibility

For children born overseas, if they shift to the UK, Parental Responsibility depends on the country in which they live in the UK.

How to get Parental Responsibility

Who can apply for Parental Responsibility?

There are different conditions under which you can apply for Parental Responsibility. They include:

  1. You can register for Parental Responsibility if you are the child's biological father. To apply, you can create an agreement with the mother. If she disagrees, you can go for a court order.

  2. You can receive Parental Responsibility if you are the child's step-parent. However, you cannot gain it by marrying the child's parent. You have to either attain an agreement with the parent or apply for a court order.

  3. You can apply for Parental Responsibility if you are a same-sex parent. It depends on whether you are a civil or non-civil partner.

  4. With adoption, the adopted parents have the child's Parental Responsibility. However, if you opted for surrogacy, you have to apply for a Parental Responsibility Order from the surrogate mother. Here, both biological and non-biological parents have rights over the child.

  5. If you are the grandparent or the child's relative, you can apply for a child's Parental Responsibility. Here, you will either have to register for a Child Arrangement Order or a Special Guardianship Order. However, you will only receive the child's guardianship for a particular time frame.

You can apply for a child's Parental Responsibility under these conditions. However, you need to have an affectionate relationship with the child while registering for a child's Parental Responsibility. Before a judge approves it, there are a plethora of factors she or he will consider.


How can I apply for Parental Responsibility?

To apply for Parental Responsibility, you require a connection with the child. There are two ways to register for it. They are the Parental Responsibility Agreement and the Parental Responsibility Order.

  • Parental Responsibility Agreement

You can opt for the Parental Responsibility Agreement if the mother agrees to it. You can apply for it if both you and your partner are unmarried or seeking a divorce. When you register for this mutual agreement, you need to have the child's birth certificate and a valid identity card.

  • Parental Responsibility Order

If the mother does not accept the Parental Responsibility Agreement, you can apply for the Parental Responsibility Order. Here, you will have to fill in the application form and produce it in front of a local family court. However, while considering the issue, the judge will look into certain factors. They include:

  1. The relationship the has with the child,

  2. The reason he is applying for Parental Responsibility,

  3. The person's commitment to the child,

  4. The status of the birth parent person if the applicant is a stepfather

Under these conditions, the judge can evaluate and decide if to issue the Parental Responsibility Order.

These are the two ways to apply for Parental Responsibility. As per the legal framework, over two people can register for a child's Parental Responsibility. However, it is essential to have a relationship with the child to apply for Parental Responsibility.

How can a step-parent apply for Parental Responsibility?

Most step-parents develop a special bond with the child after marrying the child's mother. However, the step-parents cannot decide anything for the child as they do not possess legal rights.


They can apply for Parental Responsibility to get legal standing over the child. They can form an agreement with the child's biological parents to attain Parental Responsibility in England. For that purpose, a step-parent would have to receive written consent from all Parental Responsibility holders. After obtaining it, the step-parent can either form an agreement with the parent or apply for Parental Responsibility via court. After the court looks into the application, the judge will provide notice by considering the child's well-being.

A step-parent can receive a Child Arrangement Order from the court. When a person gets this order, the child has to stay with him or her. Through this, the person automatically receives Parental Responsibility rights and gains legal guardianship over the child. However, it will only remain effective until the order is active.

Before the current Personal Responsibility law became effective, step-parents could only attain Parental Responsibility via adoption. Now, there are different ways to get Parental Responsibility for a step-parent. They include:

  1. Adopting the child

  2. Receiving a Child Arrangement Order from the court

  3. Applying for a step-parent Parental Responsibility Order from the court

  4. Approach the court directly for Parental Responsibility

These are the few ways to receive Parental Responsibility in England. Once a step-parent has Parental Responsibility, the person has the same rights as a biological parent.


A step-parent with Parental Responsibility would have to look into the child's well-being, protection, and safety. He or she would have to ensure that the child attains educational and health benefits too.


Can a Parental Responsibility holder appoint a special guardian?

Yes, a Parental Responsibility holder can appoint a special guardian under certain circumstances. If you are the only parent with Parental Responsibility, you can assign a guardian. She or he will have the rights over the child after your death. Here, the guardian has priority over the other parent as he does not possess Parental Responsibility. The other parent can approach the court to challenge the order. However, the court decides by evaluating the child's best interests.

If there is over one person with Parental Responsibility, they can appoint another individual as a special guardian. However, this person receives guardianship only after the death of others with Parental Responsibility. Even though a parent might consider the guardian to be the best person to look after the child, the person with Parental Responsibility will receive the child. However, the court will consider your request while deciding.

If the parent has a Child Arrangement Order, she or he can appoint a guardian. Here, the child can stay with the guardian after the parent's death. The other parent with Parental Responsibility can challenge the decision by applying to the court. However, this person will continue to have the child's Parental Responsibility. These are the conditions under which a Parental Responsibility holder can appoint a special guardian for their child.

Can I transfer Parental Responsibility?

No, you cannot transfer Parental Responsibility in England. However, you can opt for delegation, where another person can act as the temporary caretaker. Even under such circumstances, you are liable for the child's Parental Responsibility.

Delegates can be your partner, child's teacher, or relative. He or she does not have Parental Responsibility. However, he or she can take measures to ensure the child's safety and well-being. A person can receive delegation under diverse conditions, especially when it comes to education. They include:

  1. If a child receives education from a foreign country,

  2. If a child's parents are abroad and the child remains in the UK,

  3. If a child studies abroad and his or her grandparents or family member takes care of the child,


Under these circumstances, a person can receive a child's delegation. However, it can vary from one situation to another.

For instance, you can act as the delegate of a child in the parents' absence. Here, you have to play a significant role in deciding for the child's welfare. It can be about the child's education, health care, residence, and overall protection.

Is it necessary to seek the permission of all Parental Responsibility holders to decide for the child?


As per section 2 (7) of the Children Act 1989, a Parental Responsibility holder can decide for the child without consulting others with Parental Responsibility. However, the Case Law states it is essential to discuss with others who have Parental Responsibility for the child. It becomes relevant when you are trying to decide on something significant.

For small decisions like sending the child on a field trip, a Parental Responsibility holder can decide. However, if the other parent has an objection, she or he can apply for the Prohibition Steps Order. Here, the court can decide based on the child's best interests.

With serious decisions, all Parental Responsibility holders of a child must come together and decide. Consult other Parental Responsibility holders under these circumstances. They include:

  1. Changing the child's surname

  2. Having a medical operation for the child

  3. Putting the child for adoption

  4. Changing the child's school

  5. Moving abroad or out of jurisdiction for over 28 days

It is not pertinent to consult other Parental Responsibility holders. But it is crucial for the child's welfare. If any of the Parental Responsibility holders disagree, they can opt for family mediation. Through this, they can try to resolve the dispute. If they cannot overcome the issue, they can apply for a Prohibited Steps Order or a Special Issue Order. You can file for a Prohibited Steps Order if the Parental Responsibility holder tries to take the child abroad or remove the child from school.

Can I remove the Parental Responsibility Order?

The court can remove the Parental Responsibility Order only when it comes to adoption. Apart from that, the Parental Responsibility Order will remain effective until the order is active. However, once it expires, the person loses the rights over the child.

Under certain circumstances, the court has the authority to withdraw the Parental Responsibility Order. The court may remove delegation or special guardianship rights of a person over a child for many reasons.

How long does a parent/guardian have Parental Responsibility for a child?

Parental Responsibility in England ends when a child attains the age of 18. However, as the child grows, the child has more say while deciding essential things in their life.

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