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  • Writer's pictureEmma Aslett

Family Law | What Is Parental Responsibility?

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

Parental responsibility is defined within the Children Act as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authorities which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property.”

In essence, this concerns the responsibilities a parent has for a child, which may include decisions regarding anything from:

  • Education

  • Religion

  • Medical treatment

  • Child’s surname; and

  • Simply down to the child’s day-to-day care.

Parental Responsibility continues until, either, the child is aged 18 or the Court terminates it, the latter of which is very rare.

Do all parents have parental responsibility?

A biological mother always has parental responsibility for the child.

Prior to 01 December 2003, a father would only automatically have parental responsibility if he is married to the mother at the time of the birth of the child.

Only after 01 December 2003, has it been that biological fathers that are not married to the mother will have parental responsibility automatically if he is named on the birth certificate of the child.

A father who does not automatically have parental responsibility may acquire it by:

  • Marrying the mother of the child;

  • Entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother of the children;

  • Order of the Court.

More than one person may have parental responsibility for a child, however, no one person with parental responsibility has more of a right to have a say in decisions than another with parental responsibility. There is an equal right. If all those with parental responsibility are unable to agree on a course of action, then the matter can be referred to the Court for a decision, this can include how often the child stays with either parent.

The death of someone with parental responsibility

This may sound gloomy, but no one does, in fact, think about the consequences if, for example, the mother dies and there is no other with parental responsibility, or, the mother dies, and the father does not have parental responsibility.

If the mother dies, and the father does not have parental responsibility (nor does anybody else), but she has appointed a Guardian, then the Guardian will act for the child(ren). If the mother has not appointed a Guardian, then this will be a matter for the Court to decide. You should therefore ensure that you have a Will in place (contact me for Will advice).

If a mother dies and the father has parental responsibility, then the father will care for the children, even if the mother has appointed a Guardian, as that Guardian only comes into effect when everyone with parental responsibility has died.

The information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and you should take full and comprehensive legal advice on your individual circumstances by a fully qualified Solicitor before you embark on any course of action.

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