A woman with parental responsibility for her child.

The wording ‘Parental Responsibility’ is defined in s 3(1) of the Children Act 1989 as being:

“all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”.

In other words, it relates to the parents’ duties towards their child rather than the parent’s rights over their child.


Who has Parental Responsibility for a child?

Mothers will automatically acquire Parental Responsibility when they give birth to a child.
Fathers married to or in a civil partnership with the mother also acquire PR at birth and will not lose it if divorced or the civil partnership is dissolved.
Fathers who are not married to or in a civil partnership with the mother are not automatically granted PR at birth but will acquire it if they are added to the birth certificate.
A court can also issue various orders to grant PR to other family members.

Step-parents do not automatically acquire Parental Responsibility but can obtain it with the agreement of all parties with Parental Responsibility or through a court order. Grandparents do not automatically have Parental Responsibility but can get it with the agreement of all parties with Parental Responsibility or by way of a court order.

What decisions should I be consulted about?

Anyone with PR for the child should have a say in critical decisions about the upbringing of a child, such as where the child should live, determining where the child will go to school, changing a child’s name, consenting to medical treatment, accessing medical records and consenting to a child leaving the country.
Day-to-day decisions should be made by the parent or the person with whom the child lives predominantly without interference from other parental responsibility holders.

What should I do if I cannot agree on an issue about my child with the other person with Parental Responsibility?

Family mediation is a good starting point to resolve matters non-confrontationally without going through contested court proceedings.
If an agreement cannot be reached, either person with PR can apply to the court for a Specific Issue Order or a Prohibited Steps Order. This application will involve asking the court to decide on behalf of the parents and the decision will be based on what the court thinks is in the child’s best interests.


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