Parental responsibility is a legal concept covering the legal rights, responsibilities and authority a parent has for his or her child.
Such responsibilities include decisions about where a child lives, along with his or her upbringing, religion, education, medical care – and any property they may own.
The law requires a baby’s birth to be registered – a duty usually conducted by the mother – within six weeks of the event. The certificate should name the biological mother and father where possible.
Parental responsibility is a given for biological mothers and for biological fathers who are married to the mother when the baby is born.
It is also automatically granted where a father has adopted the child and where unmarried fathers are registered on birth certificates either on or after December 1, 2003.
However, a biological father who is not married to the child’s mother – and is not named on the birth certificate – does not have parental responsibility. Such situations can exacerbate pressure during separation, which is an already tense, uncertain time where emotions run very high.
There are a number of ways for a biological father to resolve the issue. He can ask the child’s mother to sign a parental responsibility agreement, which can be obtained from HM Courts & Tribunals Services.
If she agrees, the matter is settled swiftly and cleanly and both parents have a say on the child’s upbringing until they reach 18.
If parental responsibility arrangements can’t be agreed, the father can apply for a court order, which can be added to an application on any other issues relating to the divorce or separation. It is very rare for a court to refuse to make such an order.
Once granted, fathers are entitled to share the afore-mentioned responsibilities with the mother. This extends to having the right to take a child from the mother if there are serious childcare issues.
Finally, it is worth making the point that, as a parent, even if you do not have parental responsibility, you are still obliged to support your offspring financially until they are 18.
Collaboratively trained and a qualified mediator, she has modernised South Yorkshire Resolution since becoming chair in 2013 and is also a member of the Law Society’s Family Law Panel and the Children Panel.
She can be contacted on 0114 290 6232 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.