The law on Parental Responsibility is governed by the law of the country where the child is resident. The law is slightly different in different areas of the UK. In general, the law in England and Wales is set out below.
It is the “legal” parents who are the people seen as having Parental Responsibility for a child. The “legal” parents are not necessarily the “biological” or “natural” parents, and it is possible for two men, or two women to be seen as being the “legal” parents.
In law, the “legal” mother will most usually be the woman who gave birth to the child. This may be different if the child was adopted or was given birth to by a surrogate mother.
In law, the “legal” father will most usually be the “biological” or “natural” father, especially where he was married to the mother at any time when she was pregnant with the child, or, in England and Wales from 1 December 2003, where he is named on the Birth Certificate. In other parts of the UK, the date will be different. For instance, an unmarried biological father will only have Parental Responsibility in Scotland if the child's birth was registered or re-registered on or after 4 May 2006 and his name was recorded as the father on the registration.
Where a child has been adopted, the Adoption Certificate will state who the “legal” parents of the child are.
As regards surrogacy, the couple who arranged surrogacy should apply to the Courts for a Parental Order which allows them to be named as the “legal” parents of the child.
In general, a person can always apply to the Courts for a Declaration of Parentage, if they have a valid personal interest in the outcome. If granted, such a person would then have Parental Responsibility for the purpose of a change of name of the child concerned.
Other factors that may affect Parental Responsibility are, for instance, where a person becomes a child’s guardian, or obtains a residence order in their favour.
It is the responsibility of the adult who is making the application with us for a Deed Poll for a child, to ensure that they have the consent of all people and/or bodies with Parental Responsibility, before they make the application.
If there is a court order or agreement of any kind relating to the child (for instance, a Parental Responsibility Order, Adoption Certificate, Residence Order, Parental Responsibility Agreement, Special Guardianship Order or Specific Issue Order) then this could set out exactly who has Parental Responsibility.
If both of the legal parents consent to the child's change of name, and both can sign the deed poll, please tick both mother and father boxes on the application page. If they cannot both sign, then please tick only the box for the parent who can sign the Deed Poll. In this case, you must have a letter of consent from the other parent, as well as from any other person with Parental Responsibility.
We have put together a flowchart (see below) to help you to assess whether the mother has sole parental responsibility, or joint parental responsibility with the father. Of course, other people or bodies may have parental responsibility, if for instance there is a Court Order, or an adoption, as set out above. However, in most circumstances it will be either one or both of the biological parents, who have parental responsibility.