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The legal definition of Parental Responsibility, as outlined in the Children Act 1989, is "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". The term is intended to focus on the duties parents have towards their children rather than on the rights they might have over them.
A person with Parental Responsibility has the power to make important decisions in relation to a child's upbringing, and the right to have a say in these decisions. The key roles for someone with Parental Responsibility are to provide the child with a home and to protect and maintain the child including financial provision, but they also have responsibility for discipline, provision of education, medical treatment and protecting the child's property.
If you do not live with a child but have Parental Responsibility for them, there is no automatic right for you to spend time with your child or children. Routine decisions are generally made by the resident parent and do not require consent from the other parent with Parental Responsibility. The parent with whom the child lives, however, must include the non-resident parent in any important decisions concerning the child. Some major decisions, for instance one parent moving abroad with the child or children, require written agreement from all parties with Parental Responsibility. In the case of non-agreement, a Specific Issue Order or Prohibited Steps Order can be applied for whereby a Judge would rule as to what is in the child's best interests.
The mother of a child has Parental Responsibility for her child automatically from the time of birth. In England and Wales, both parents have Parental Responsibility if they are married or in a civil partnership at the time of the child's birth or when fertility treatment started, or if they have jointly adopted the child. Both parents will keep Parental Responsibility if they later divorce or dissolve a civil partnership. A parent will automatically obtain Parental Responsibility if they are named on the child's birth certificate.
A parent who does not automatically have Parental Responsibility can gain it by obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order from the court or drawing up a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the child's mother. Parental Responsibility is generally limited to those with significant responsibility for a child but can be granted to more than two people.
For further information and advice on this issue, and other family law issues, please contact us for a free initial consultation on 01992 306 616 or 0207 956 2740 or email us.Back to Law Articles