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Legal News | 13.03.19

Parental Responsibility – Do I have it?

What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental responsibility or ‘PR’ is comprised of the rights and responsibilities a parent has in relation to their child until they reach the age of 18. This could include but is not limited to: registering the child’s name; choosing the child’s school; consenting to the child’s medical treatment and determining which religion the child follows.

Who has parental responsibility?

All birthmothers have PR. Similarly, a father married to the birthmother will have PR. An unmarried father does not automatically have PR. However, as of 1 December 2003, providing an unmarried father is named on the child’s birth certificate, he will obtain automatic PR.

Unmarried fathers

An unmarried father may obtain PR by marrying the birthmother, having his name registered on the child’s birth certificate or entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the child’s birthmother. However, these methods are not always attainable. An unmarried father may therefore obtain PR through a Court ordered Parental Responsibility Order or Child Arrangements Order which names him as a person the child lives with.

Same-sex parents

Same-sex parents will both acquire PR providing they were married or civil partners prior to the child being conceived by either artificial insemination or licensed fertility treatment. For same-sex partners, not in a formal relationship, the non-biological parent can acquire PR by either obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order subject to the biological parent’s agreement or by formalising their relationship with the biological parent and entering a Parental Responsibility Agreement or jointly registering the child’s birth.


A step-parent, married or in a civil partnership with a child’s birthparent will not automatically have PR. A step-parent must enter into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with their spouse/civil partner and the child’s other birthparent.


A person with PR cannot transfer it although it is possible to delegate the responsibility of caring for a child to another party. Ultimately the PR holder will remain liable for the child and must ensure proper arrangements are made.


If a child is adopted, their adoptive parents automatically obtain PR and the birthparent’s PR is severed.

Parental Responsibility Agreements

Parental Responsibility Agreement can be signed at Court by all parties concerned, granting a parent or stepparent parental responsibility. This avoids a Court order.

Parental Responsibility Order

If parents cannot agree about whether a parent or stepparent should have PR, an application can be made to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order. The Court will decide whether it’s in the child’s best interest to grant a parent or step-parent PR. It is common that an unmarried father will be granted PR providing he can show commitment and a good attachment to the child.

The Family Team at Wansbroughs are well equipped to advise on all private children law matters including parental responsibility. If you would like further information, we offer a free 30 minute initial consultation to all new enquiries. Call 01225 896100 or email family@wansbroughs.com.