Parental responsibility gives important legal status in respect of a child (that is separate from legal parenthood). It enables an adult to take important decisions to determine a child’s upbringing and safeguard a child’s welfare, including consent to medical treatment and immunisations, apply for a school place, consent to a religious ceremony, relocate or remove from the UK for a holiday or permanently.
Parental responsibility lasts until a child is 16-18 years old (unless discharged by court order). It is possible to hold parental responsibility for a child but not be a legal parent (and equally be a legal parent but not have parental responsibility).
Parental responsibility can be shared by more than one person for a child, in which case all those holding parental responsibility should consult each other and agree in respect of the decision making process for a child.
Parental responsibility can be terminated or limited by the English court if this is seemed appropriate in all the circumstances of the case.
Acquisition of parental responsibility
The following people automatically obtain parental responsibility for a child:
- A child’s birth mother (including a surrogate mother)
- A birth mother’s husband (including a surrogate mother’s husband)
- A birth mother’s civil partner (from 6 April 2009 subject to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008)
If you do not automatically acquire parental responsibility for a child you can obtain it by the methods below.
- As an unmarried father by being named as father (with the birth mother’s agreement) on the child’s British birth certificate (as from 1 December 2003)
- As an unmarried father by marrying the child’s mother
- By entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the child’s mother and anyone else who hold’s parental responsibility for the child (if you are an unmarried father, a married heterosexual step-parent or a lesbian or gay civil partner)
- Apply to court for a parental responsibility order by consent or on a contested basis (if you are an unmarried father, a married heterosexual step-parent or a lesbian or gay civil partner)
- Obtain a parental order (for intended parents following surrogacy)
- Adopting a child
- Obtaining a special guardianship order in respect of a child
- Obtaining a child arrangements order (formerly a residence order) in respect of a child
How I can help
I can provide help with:
- Advice on the acquisition of parental responsibility (for lesbian couples, co-parents, intended parents through surrogacy, known donors, unmarried fathers or a child’s carer)
- Preservation of autonomous parental responsibility for a child for solo mothers
- Advice and legal representation in court to obtain parental responsibility following a dispute
- Advice and legal representation in court following surrogacy to obtain parental responsibility for a child
- Help and legal representation in court regarding disputes over the exercise of parental responsibility for a child