Parental Rights & Responsibilities

Rather than setting out the ‘rights’ of parents, the law talks about ‘parental responsibility’ for a child. This term includes responsibilities in relation to issues such as a child’s education, medical treatment, religion, name, discipline and protection.
A mother automatically has parental responsibility for her child. If a child’s parents were married when the child was born or subsequently, both will have parental responsibility for the child. A father who has never been married to a child’s mother does not automatically have parental responsibility but can acquire it by:
  • agreement with the child’s mother recorded in a parental responsibility agreement;
  • (since Dec 2003) by jointly registering the birth of the child with the mother; or
  • by a parental responsibility order, made by the Court. 
A step-parent can also acquire parental responsibility either by:
  • agreement with the child’s mother and all other parties who have parental responsibility;
  • by a parental responsibility order, made by the Court; or
  • by a child arrangements order (confirming the child lives with them) or adoption order.