Parental responsibility refers to the legal rights and responsibilities individuals have as parents. Those with parental responsibility for a child have a say in the major decisions regarding the upbringing of that child. These decisions can include (but are not limited to) determining a child’s religion, determining a child’s education, choosing or changing a child’s name, consenting to medical treatment for a child and consenting for a child to be taken out of the jurisdiction on holiday.

If you are the mother of a child, you will automatically have parental responsibility unless your child has been adopted and you have surrendered your parental responsibility.

If you are the father of a child, whether you have parental responsibility will depend on a number of factors:

  • If you were married to the child’s mother when your child was born, you will automatically have parental responsibility.
  • If you were not married, whether you will have parental responsibility will depend on when your child was born. If your child was born before 1 December 2003, you will not automatically have parental responsibility. If your child was born after 1 December 2003, you will have parental responsibility provided that you are named as the father on the child’s birth certificate.
  • If you do not have parental responsibility, you can acquire it through a number of ways:
  • If you subsequently marry the mother of the child, you will automatically acquire parental responsibility.
  • If the mother consents, you can enter into a parental responsibility agreement.
  • If there is no agreement between you and the mother, you will need to apply to the court for a parental responsibility order. This can be as a specific issue or as part of a wider child arrangements application.

I am the step parent to my spouse’s child from a previous relationship. Can I acquire Parental Responsibility for the child to assist my spouse in decision making?

A step-parent does not acquire Parental Responsibility just by marrying or entering into a civil partnership with the child's parent. However, a step parent can be granted parental responsibility subject to obtaining the signed consent of every other person with parental responsibility for the child.

If an agreement is reached, then it must be recorded into a Step Parent Parental Responsibility Agreement.

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