Legal Parental Responsibility

What is Parental Responsibility (PR)

Parental Responsibility is the term used to define a legal relationship between a parent and a child. Normally this is automatic for mothers and given to fathers when they are included on a child's birth certificate.   

What rights and responsibilities do I get with Parental Responsibility?

All mothers and most fathers have legal rights and responsibilities as parents - known as ‘parental responsibility’. 

If you have parental responsibility, your most important roles are to: 

  • provide a home for the child 
  • protect and maintain the child 

You’re also responsible for: 

  • Bringing up the child and setting boundaries 
  • choosing and providing for the child’s education 
  • agreeing to the child’s medical treatment 
  • naming the child and agreeing to any change of name 
  • looking after the child’s property.

All those adults with PR have these responsibilities irrespective of who the child lives with.

Do I have to pay child maintenance if I don’t have PR?

If you are not the main carer of the child, yes, you should take responsibility for ensuring that your child is financially provided for. If your ex relies on the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) you will also have to pay from the date the other parent makes a claim. Parents have to ensure that their child is supported financially even if they are not on the birth certificate.  If you dispute that you are the parent you can challenge the decision of CMS and they will offer you a DNA test.


If my name is not on the birth certificate, how do I get PR?

You can apply to court for a Parental Responsibility Order or, if you wish to play an active role in your child's life you can apply for a Child Arrangements Order and ask for PR too. 

Can I get PR if I am not the child's father? 

Yes. PR may be conferred on any appropriate adult such as a grandparent, a close relative, a new partner, a guardian or even a Local Authority if the child goes into care. The child will have more than two adults with PR. This requires an application to court and the agreement of those adults already with PR. All adults with PR have the same rights and responsibilities. 

If I have a Child Arrangements Order does that mean I have PR?

Not necessarily.  If you do not have PR when you apply for a CAO then you should ask for PR at the same time. The person then named on the Child Arrangements Order will share PR with the mother and any other adults with PR. 

Do parents with parental responsibility need to share decision making?

s2(7) of the Children Act 1989 states:

Where more than one person has parental responsibility for a child, each of them may act alone and without the other (or others) in meeting that responsibility;

However case-law has established that in certain circumstances parents are under a legal duty to consult, meaning that where parents are separated, the resident parent is not always entitled to act without first consulting her ex-partner. Back in 1998 the Court of Appeal (Re H (Parental Responsibility) said that a father with parental responsibility would have to be consulted on “schooling, serious medical problems and other important occurrences in the child's life'.

Parental responsibility is not concerned with the day-to-day care of the child, does not permit either (separated) parent to interfere with how the other parent cares for the child when the child is in their care. In A v A (Shared Residence) [2004] EWHC 142 at paragraph 118 Mr Justice Wall remarked:

‘It is a basic principle that, post separation, each parent with parental responsibility retains an equal and independent right and responsibility to be informed and make appropriate decisions about their children. However, where children are being looked after by one parent, that parent needs to be in a position to take the day-to-day decisions that have to be taken while that parent is caring for the children. Parents should not be seeking to interfere with one another in matters which are taking place while they do not have the care of their children. Subject to any questions which are regulated by court order, the object of the exercise should be to maintain flexible and practical arrangements whenever possible.’

The parents in the case above had, with the help of NYAS, agreed a ‘Schedule of Items in Relation to their Exercise of Parental Responsibility’, a schedule which Mr Justice Wall chose to endorse by appending it to the end of his judgment. The schedule differentiated between 3 sorts of decisions:

(a) Decisions that could be taken independently and without any consultation or notification to the other parent

(b) Decisions where one parent would always need to inform the other parent of the decision, but did not need to consult or take the other parent’s views into account

(c) Decisions that you would need to both inform and consult the other parent

Though there is no absolute agreement, the rule of thumb is that the following matters require the consent of all those who have parental responsibility for the child:

Change of surname (even where there is no residence order)

Removing the child from the jurisdiction (i.e. England and Wales) for more than one month

Committing to a serious and irreversible operation (except in an emergency)

Change of school

end faq

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