What is Parental Responsibility? My Partner Says I Don’t Have it.

Parental responsibility
Vanessa Fox
Partner and Head of
Family Law
hlw Keeble Hawson

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.

About Vanessa

hlw Keeble Hawson partner, Vanessa Fox, marked 25 years as head of the firm’s family law department in 2016.

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 vanessafox@hlwkeeblehawson.co.uk.



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