parental responsibility


Parental Responsibility is complex and often misunderstood. When advising a client about any child-related matter it is important that this issue is discussed and explained, as particularly for fathers, it can affect the rights and duties. Often the first appointment with a family lawyer is the first time a parent may have heard the term Parental Responsibility but what does it mean?

What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental Responsibility (PR) means “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities, and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and property”.

Having or not having PR does not determine whether an individual is a parent of the child. A person who does not have PR, but who has care of a child, in all circumstances can do what is reasonable to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare.

All parents have a duty to ensure that their child is supported financially. If you don’t live with your child or children, PR doesn’t automatically mean you have a right to see a child.

If you have PR you will be responsible for:

  • disciplining the child
  • 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

Who has Parental Responsibility?

A mother automatically has PR for her child from birth. If a child’s parents are married when the child is born, both of them automatically have PR

However, if the parents are not married when the child is born, the mother automatically has PR but the father can acquire PR by:

  • marrying the mother (this may not apply if the father is not domiciled in England and Wales when the marriage takes place)
  • entering into a PR agreement which must be filed at the Principal Registry of the Family Division of the High Court
  • obtaining a Court Order giving him PR
  • being named in a Child Arrangements Order stating the child will live with him
  • being registered as the child’s father on the register of births in the UK if the child is born after 1st December 2003 (different rules apply for Northern Ireland and Scotland)
  • becoming the child’s Guardian
  • adopting the child

The law relating to step-parents, or same-sex parents can be very confusing and complicated. Beswicks Legal Family lawyers can help you understand the implications of PR in your particular case and either by negotiation or application to the court can help you get the rights and responsibilities that come with PR for the benefit of your child.

If you would like a confidential chat about this or any aspect of family law please contact Beswicks Legal on 01782 205000 or