While a birth mother always has parental responsibility, a father is not automatically entitled to the same rights unless he was married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth. This article explains everything you need to know about parental responsibility and how it works in practice.
Parental responsibility is legally defined as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property.” In other words, parental responsibility refers to all the obligations and rights a parent has for a child.
Under the Children’s Act 1989 Section 3(1), the parents whose name is on the birth certificate have parental responsibility. Parental responsibility lasts until the child is 18 years old.
A person with parental responsibility has a say in all major parenting decisions regarding the child’s education, health, and wellbeing, including:
A person without parental responsibility doesn’t have the authority to influence major decisions regarding the child’s life.
Any day-to-day decisions can be taken by the parent with whom the child lives (the resident parent). For any major decisions, such as where the child goes to school, everyone who has parental responsibility must consent.
Parental responsibility doesn’t grant the following rights:
Read on to find out who can have parental responsibility.
The birth mother always has parental responsibility.
In addition, the biological father who is married to or in a civil partnership with the mother at the time of the child’s birth automatically has parental responsibility. The father will not lose his parental responsibility after divorce or civil partnership dissolution.
The following individuals can also have parental responsibility for a child:
It is possible for more than two people to have parental responsibility for the same child.
A father who has been absent from his child’s life for a longer period of time will nevertheless retain parental responsibility together with all the rights and duties that it entails.
A father who is not married to or in a civil partnership with the child’s mother and whose name is not on the child’s birth certificate doesn’t automatically have parental responsibility. However, he is still required to provide financial support for the child. A father without parental responsibility also has the right to:
Other individuals who don’t automatically have parental responsibility are:
However, a person can apply for parental responsibility if they don’t automatically have it. Here’s how.
A father who is not married to or in a civil partnership with the mother can obtain parental responsibility in several ways:
Although you can share parental responsibility with another person, you can’t transfer it to someone else.
If needed, you can delegate the responsibility to a partner, childcarer, teacher, friend, or relative who will act as temporary caretaker for your child. Note that even if you opt for delegation, you remain liable for parental responsibility.
There are different ways in which a father can gain parental responsibility, but is it also possible to lose it? Keep reading to find out.
A father can’t lose parental responsibility for the child unless there is an order from the court to remove it. However, this happens very rarely.
Parental responsibility is terminated in extreme cases to protect a child from serious emotional or physical harm. Furthermore, parental responsibility removal can be ordered only when it was acquired by an unmarried father through parental responsibility agreement or court order.
Being an absent or inconsistent father is not considered a sufficient condition to remove parental responsibility. An absent father will, therefore, retain the parental responsibility for the child.
Although the court will not normally remove a father’s parental responsibility, there are different orders that the judge can make to restrict the father’s involvement in the child’s life, for example:
These orders can significantly limit the role a father can play in a child’s life if this is considered by the court to be in the child’s best interest. The court will always prefer to restrict parental responsibility than to remove it entirely.
Both the mother and the father will lose parental responsibility if the child is adopted. The names of adoptive parents will replace the biological parents’ names on the adoption certificate.