DATE PUBLISHED: 11 Jun 2019 LAST UPDATED: 12 Mar 2021

Do I have parental responsibility?

I am often approached by people who are unsure whether they have parental responsibility or not. Parental responsibility provides people with
responsibilities in relation to making decisions about a child’s care and upbringing. Typically, the types of decisions that parents with parental responsibility must agree include the child’s name, where they live, whether the child should have any specific medical treatment, their religion, school and providing consent for the child to go abroad either temporarily for a holiday or permanently. These decisions must be agreed by anyone else who has parental responsibility for that child and should not be made in isolation of the other parent. Parental responsibility does not include having to agree the more general day-to-day decisions as this will fall to the person who has care for the child at that time. Importantly, parental responsibility does not affect a parents’ obligation to support their child financially; these two issues are not linked in any way.

Some parents have parental responsibility automatically whereas others may have to acquire parental responsibility after the child is born. The following people will automatically have parental responsibility:-

  • The child’s birth mother;
  • Father’s who are married to the birth mother at the time the child was born;
  • Fathers who are not married to the birth mother, but were registered on the child’s birth certificate on or after 1st December 2003; and
  • Civil partners and partners of mothers registered as the child’s legal parent on the birth certificate.

The following people do not have automatic parental responsibility:

  • A biological father who is not married to the birth mother at the time the child was born;
  • A biological father who was registered on the child’s birth certificate before December 2003;
  • Step-parents; and
  • Grandparents and other family members.

Generally, the people who are unsure of their parental status are fathers as they do not have parental responsibility automatically. If you are not married to the child’s mother at the time the child was born, I would suggest, as a starting point, applying for a copy of the child’s birth certificate online or asking for a copy from the child’s mother. This will confirm whether or not you have parental responsibility. Some situations may be more complex and it may help you to talk about your situation and whether you have or can acquire parental responsibility.

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