What is parental responsibility?
Parental responsibility defines the legal rights and responsibilities you have as a parent. It is defined by law as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”.
Who has parental responsibility?
The mother of the child automatically has parental responsibility for any child born to them.
A father usually has parental responsibility either:
- if he is married to the child’s mother, or
- if he is named as father on the birth certificate (for any children born after 1st December 2003).
If they are not named on the birth certificate or they are named on the birth certificate but it pre-dates the change to the law in 1st December 2003 then they do not automatically have parental responsibility.
Same sex couples who are in a civil partnership or married at the date of the child’s birth will both have parental responsibility. For same sex partners who are not civil partners or married, it is possible for the second parent to obtain parental responsibility.
How do you obtain parental responsibility if you do not have it automatically?
It can be obtained either by:
- entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother, or
- applying for a parental responsibility order from the Court.
- Entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother is the quickest way to obtain parental responsibility. Form (PRA1) can be downloaded from the Court website and completed by both parents. There are certain forms of identification required. The form must be signed in front of an officer of the Court so that the easiest way to do this is to make an appointment to take it to the Court office. The form does not have to be signed at the same time by mother and father so it would be possible for example the mother to sign and then provide the form to the father and for the father to sign subsequently. It must then be filed with the Principle Registry of the Family Division. There is no fee payable for filing this agreement. It will then confer parental responsibility on the father.
- If it is not possible to reach an agreement with the mother to confer parental responsibility on the father, the father can make an application to the Court under the Children Act. There is a Court fee which is currently £215.00 although if the applicant is on a low income or in receipt of benefits then there may be a reduction in the Court fee or an exemption from paying it. Form C1 should be completed and sent to the Court together with the Court fee (or fee remission application if applicable). The Court will then return paperwork to the applicant to arrange for it to be served on the mother. It is likely that the application will be listed for a short hearing called a directions hearing and there may also be involvement of Cafcass. If at the first directions hearing the mother agrees to the parental responsibility, then an order can probably be made at that time. Otherwise, it will be listed for a hearing when the Court will actually decide whether parental responsibility should be granted or a Cafcass Officer will be ordered to file a report recommending what is in the best interest of the child in accordance with the welfare checklist.
How does parental responsibility affect child maintenance?
Child maintenance, otherwise known as child support, is a payment made to the parent with main care of the child by the non-resident parent. If, for example, the child lives with the mother, the father will be required to pay child maintenance to the mother to cover the cost of raising the child. Child maintenance is payable regardless of whether the father has parental responsibility. If there is a dispute over paternity then this can be raised with the child maintenance service.
Angela Lally – www.simpsonsissonsandbrooke.co.uk
Originally from the Sheffield area, Angela studied for her law degree at the University of Liverpool and her post-graduate qualification at the University of Sheffield, qualifying as a Solicitor in 2002. Angela has specialised in family law since qualifying and enjoys the mixture of client interaction and court work which is part and parcel of being a family solicitor.
Before joining SSB in 2009, Angela worked for two large local firms of solicitors, gaining an extensive range of skills in all aspects of family law and developing a particular interest in dealing with the financial aspects of divorce and separation. Whilst at SSB Angela qualified as a Resolution Accredited specialist, recognising her knowledge of family law matters.
Angela has a busy life outside of work, looking after 3 young children as well as regularly attending a number of fitness classes such as Zumba and Fight FX and also enjoys running. When the opportunity to relax arises, family driving holidays to France are a favourite.