What is Parental Responsibility?

We are sure that you have heard the phrase Parental Responsibility. But what does it mean? Who has it? How can I obtain it? Why is it important?


The law defines parental responsibility as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent has in relation to the child and his/her property”

It is thus very wide-ranging and affects almost every decision that a parent makes in respect of their child. For example, it gives the right to give consent for medical treatment, a child’s name cannot be changed without the permission of every holder of parental responsibility or court order. It also affects who can make decisions about which school a child attends. In fact, there is almost no area of a child’s welfare that is not an aspect of parental responsibility.

So, given that it is so important who has parental responsibility or PR for short.  Upon birth, the child’s mother automatically obtains parental responsibility so does the child’s father if the parents are married.  We must also look at how parental responsibility can be obtained where it is not automatic.

If the father is registered as the child’s father after 1st December 2003 (regardless of the child’s date of birth) he will have parental responsibility for that child.

In circumstances where the father is not registered on the birth certificate, we must look to his other options.  If the father and mother agree that the father has parental responsibility for their child, they can enter into a Parental Responsibility Agreement.  This is a formal agreement and must be in a set form and subsequently registered for it to be effective.  We strongly recommend that our advice is sought before entering into such an agreement as we can assist with the proper drafting and ensure that it is effective.

Parental Responsibility Order (PR Order)

If the parents do not agree then it is open to the father to make an application to the court for a PR Order.  In making its decision the court will look at:

  1. The applicant’s commitment to the child:
  2. The applicant’s attachment to the child and
  3. The applicant’ reason for making the application

As with any legal process or question it is vital to obtain the best possible advice and assistance as soon as possible.  Here at Youngs, we are able to offer expert advice from one of our highly skilled family law solicitors.

About the author

Robert West - Family Solicitor | Youngs

Robert West is a family law solicitor and heads up our Newcastle-under-Lyme branch, Cooks Solicitors. He has years of experience in successfully advising on all aspect of Child law. This includes very complex cases involving medical treatment and international child abduction.  He has successfully appeared as an advocate before the High Court and is always on hand to offer you the legal help you need.

To contact Robert, call or WhatsApp 033 33 582 582, use our web form, or visit any of our offices.

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