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What is Parental Responsibility?

Friday, 5 August 2016

clip_image002For many of us, Parental Responsibility will never become an issue in our families.

However, when family life becomes complicated, Parental Responsibility can play an important part in decisions that are made by the courts, particularly in issues such as divorce, custody and decisions over a child’s upbringing and future.

By law Parental Responsibility is defined 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” which explains the role of the parent in relation to their child until the child turns 18 years of age.

Parental Responsibility might come into play in a number of different circumstances. These include when naming a child, choosing their religion, where they live, what medical treatment they might have and how they are educated. These are decisions which can become complicated after a divorce or separation and may sometimes need the involvements of solicitors and the courts to resolve.

Who has Parental Responsibility?

In England and Wales, Parental Responsibility is automatically inherited by the mother of a child. If the parents were married when the child was born then the father also automatically has Parental Responsibility.

The father can inherit Parental Responsibility if the parents were not married at the time of the child’s birth but later decide to get married. And if the parents were not married when the child was born but the child was born on or after 1st December 2003 and the father is named on the birth certificate then he will have Parental Responsibility. He can also inherit it by being added to the child’s birth certificate at a later date if the birth is re-registered.

In some cases Parental Responsibility can be acquired, for example in the case of step-parents, who can acquire it through a formal agreement with the child’s parents witnessed by the Court. If approval is not given then it can be applied for with legal help.

In cases involving assisted reproduction, whether with heterosexual or same sex couples, both partners can inherit Parental Responsibility automatically at birth provided they are either married or in a civil partnership. However, if they are unmarried and remain unmarried then only the mother will inherit Parental Responsibility and the other parent will need to acquire it by agreement or application to the courts.

Gaining parental responsibility when you have not inherited it will usually mean either coming to an agreement with others who hold parental responsibility for a child or by applying through the courts. Here at Rollingsons we have extensive experience in forming Parental Responsibility agreements between parents as well as helping our clients in the court process. For more information please visit our Family Law page, or call us on 020 7611 4848 for an initial consultation.

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