How to Get Parental Responsibility as a Step Parent?
Do Step Parents automatically have parental rights?
No, a Step Parent does not automatically have parental responsibility after marrying the child’s biological parent, regardless of how much they have contributed to the upbringing of the child. It should be noted that an unmarried partner is not legally considered to be a step parent, regardless of how long they have been in a relationship with the biological parent.
However, there are ways by which a Step Parent can gain parental responsibility of a child, these are
By entering a Parental Responsibility Agreement, but only after marriage with the child's biological parent
If the required consent for a Parental Responsibility Agreement is not obtained, the step-parent can apply to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order
If the Court chooses to make a Child Arrangement Order which specifically names the step-parent as the person with whom the child will be living, then the step-parent will have parental responsibility of that child for however long the order is in place for.
If the step-parent becomes the child’s legal guardian then parental responsibility is automatically granted by the court.
If the step-parent is appointed as the child’s ‘special guardian’, parental responsibility is automatically granted by the court at the same time.
What is Parental Responsibility?
There are certain decisions that need to be made for children that all people with parental responsibility generally have a say in. These decisions are generally related to the child’s upbringing.
In simple words, Parental Responsibility refers to the powers given to an individual to make important decisions related to the child. This includes the following;
To determine the education of the child and where the child will go to school
To choose, change or register the name of the child
To appoint the guardian of the child in case of death of a parent
To Access the medical records of the child
To consent to the operation or medical treatment of the child
To provide consent to take the child abroad for extended stays or holidays.
To determine the religion of the child and how the child should be brought up with. Where there is a mix of cultural background of the parents, then the child will be getting the exposure of all the people with parental responsibility until the change reaches the age where he or she can take his own decision of life.
What is a Parental Responsibility Agreement, and how can I get one?
A Step Parental Responsibility Agreement is between the step-parent and the child’s parents who already have parental responsibility. To enter into a parental responsibility agreement, you must have the written consent of every person who has parental responsibility for the child.
The following are the two simple conditions to get a Step Parent Parental Responsibility Agreement:
You have to be married to the biological parent of the child with whom the child lives
You have have signed consent of every person with parental responsibility of the child
You will have to show the following in a Step Parent Responsibility Agreement:
A Marriage Certificate showing proof that you are married to the parent of the child.
The parent of the child is also under obligation to show the full Birth Certificate of the child.
All parties must show photographic proof of identity such as passport, driving license etc.
Unfortunately, it can sometimes be very difficult getting the agreement of the other parent. If this is the case, then a parental responsibility agreement will be impossible (as consent of everybody with Parental Responsibility is needed) , and the next step may be an application to the court.
What are the Effects of a Step-Parent Parental Responsibility Agreement, What does it do and not do?
The following are some of the effects of a step-parent Parental Responsibility Agreement;
Here's what a Step Parent Agreement does;
A Step Parent Agreement gives a step parent the same legal rights and obligations as the biological parent when it comes to raising the child. This means they have an equal say in the official decisions made regarding the child's daily life and wellbeing as the biological parents.
Here’s what a Step Parent Agreement doesn’t do:
A parental responsibility agreement does not take away or remove responsibility from any one who already has parental responsibility
You do not become liable for paying child maintenance
In the case of separation or divorce with the child’s biological parent, you may not automatically get the right to stay in contact with the child
What If the Other Parent Won’t Agree to the Step-Parent Parental Responsibility Agreement?
It can be a problem if the other parent does not agree to a Step-Parent Responsibility Agreement, as all people with Parental Responsibility must consent for the agreement to go through.
However, if the Step Parent having parental responsibility is truly in the best interests of the child, then you can apply to the court for a parental responsibility Order. This is where the court will grant the Step Parent Parental Responsibility even if all with Parental Responsibility do not consent. However, this route involves litigation and the court will thoroughly examine the application before giving their agreement or disagreement.
Can I apply to the court for parental responsibility as a Step Parent?
A step-parent can make an application for parental responsibility to the court for the step child. In such a case, everyone with parental responsibility will be given notice of the application. This allows everyone else with parental responsibility to oppose the application if they so wish.
However, just because a parent has opposed the application it does not mean that the application will automatically not be successful. The judge will look at the applications presented to them and make a final decision as ultimately it is the court who decides whether it is for the welfare and best interest for the child for parental responsibility to be granted to the step parent.
Does the Step Parent lose parental responsibility if they divorce the biological parent?
When a step parent separates or divorces the child’s biological parent, there is no guarantee that they will have an automatic legal right to continue meeting or seeing the child.
The step parents and biological parents can still make agreements so that the step parent stays in contact with the child. If the step-parent has officially adopted the child, they will continue to have parental responsibility of the child.
Note: This article is not a piece of legal advice and must not be treated as legal advice.