Parental Responsibility

The Children Act 1989 aimed to clarify the position relating to who could be responsible for looking after children. One of the main concepts that was introduced with the Act was parental responsibility. This is a legal term which emphasise that the duty to care for one’s children and to raise them to moral, physical and emotional health if the fundamental task of parenthood.

It affirms that parents have duties, as well as rights, where their children are concerned. The list of responsibilities involved includes care and control of the child, discipline, protection and maintenance, secular education and religious upbringing, medical treatment, consent to marriage and burial or cremation in the event of the death of a child.

Many people do not know how parental responsibility is obtained. It is automatically given to all married parents of children, whether the child was born before or after the marriage and includes adopted children. An unmarried mother automatically has parental responsibility but an unmarried father does not.

There are now a number of ways in which an unmarried father can acquire parental responsibility for his child. Previously, this could only be either by entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement or by the Courts making a Parental Responsibility Order. The Parental Responsibility Agreement has to be registered at the Royal Courts of Justice after it is witnessed by a Court official.

Surprisingly, not many people chose to take this route. Perhaps one reason is that both these procedures are cumbersome. Also, many parents believe, mistakenly, that living together does give a father parental responsibility. This is only true in specific circumstances. From 1st December 2003, any unmarried father registered on the birth certificate as the father of a child has automatic parental responsibility, provided both the mother and father are present at the time registration takes place.

Parental responsibility can also be granted to people who are not the blood parents of a child. Anybody whose care of a child is Court approved by the making of a residence order automatically acquires parental responsibility. In addition, adopters and guardians are given parental responsibility and in some circumstances, it is granted to local authorities or even the Court.

If you require legal advice on parental responsibility, or wish to create a Parental Responsibility Agreement, then please contact us today on 01536 276300 or email