Parental responsibility – what is it, who has it?
By Natasha Rowe
The concept of parental responsibility can represent two ideas: one, that parents must behave dutifully towards their children; the other, that responsibility for bringing up a child belongs to parents, not the State. In the absence of an agreed list, it is suggested that parental responsibility comprises at least the following:
- Bringing up the child.
- Having contact with the child.
- Protecting and maintaining the child.
- Disciplining the child.
- Determining and providing for the child’s education.
- Determining the child’s religion.
- Consenting to the child’s medical treatment.
- Consenting to the child’s marriage.
- Consenting to the child’s adoption.
- Vetoing the issue of a child’s passport.
- Taking the child outside the United Kingdom and consenting to the child’s emigration.
- Administering the child’s property.
- Naming the child.
- Representing the child in legal proceedings.
- Appointing a guardian for the child.
Who has parental responsibility?
- Married mothers and fathers.
Where the father and mother were married to each other at the time of the child’s birth, they each have parental responsibility.
- Female spouses and civil partners.
A mother’s spouse or civil partner who is a parent by virtue of assisted reproduction treatment who is at the time of treatment a party to a marriage or civil partnership or who later enters into a marriage or civil partnership with her after the commencement of the treatment and before the child’s birth, will, together with the mother, each have automatic parental responsibility.
- Unmarried mothers and fathers.
Where the father and the mother are not married to each other at the time of the child’s birth, it is only the mother who has parental responsibility for the child at the time of the child’s birth.
The most common way for the father to later acquire parental responsibility is by subsequently marrying the child’s mother or by being registered on the child’s birth certificate.
- Unmarried mothers and female partners.
As in the case of mothers and fathers who are not married to each other, the mother, but not her female partner has parental responsibility for the child.
A woman who is neither a spouse or a civil partner of the mother can acquire parental responsibility by becoming registered as the child’s parent, by making a parental responsibility agreement with the mother or by obtaining a parental responsibility order.