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Parental Responsibility: What does it mean and who is entitled to it?

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I have many people asking me what is parental responsibility and do I have it? It can be a scary situation when you are separating or divorcing from the mother or father of your children. What does it mean for the children? What rights and responsibilities do you have?

What is parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility is the legal term for the rights and responsibilities that parents have for their children. It means you are responsible for ensuring that the child is cared for and for protecting and maintaining the child. It also means that you are responsible for choosing what schools they go to, getting the right medical treatment, naming the child and also disciplining the child. Parental responsibility comes to an end when a child attains the age of 18. 

Who has it?

Mothers who give birth to children automatically have parental responsibility for their children. Fathers also automatically have parental responsibility if they are married to the mother at the time of birth or if they are named as the father on the birth certificate and the birth was registered after 1st December 2003. So what happens if you are the father of a child but you are not married to the mother and are not named on the birth certificate? Well the short answer is that you do not have parental responsibility for your child. 

Can I obtain Parental Responsibility if I do not automatically have it?

Yes you can. There are several ways to do this. Firstly, you can enter into a voluntary agreement with the mother of your child called a Parental Responsibility Agreement. The other option is to make an application to the Court and obtain a Parental Responsibility Order. 

What happens if I do not live with my child(ren)?

If you have separated from the mother or father of your children and the children are not living with you, this does not mean you do not have any rights or responsibilities for them. Parental responsibility does not disappear if you are not living with your children. 

You still have a responsibility to make sure your children have appropriate living arrangements and have a responsibility to maintain your children. This is why there is child maintenance. 

It also means that you still have the right to know what is going on in your child’s lives especially when it comes to their education and their healthcare. You are entitled to contact your child’s school to ask them to forward any reports and important updates on your child directly to you as well as their other parent. 

If you are concerned about matters with your children or concerned that you do not have parental responsibility of your child and would like some advice then please contact one of our family law experts on 01295 270999 (Banbury office), 01869 252161 (Bicester office), 01788 579579 (Rugby office).