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What is Parental Responsibility?

The task of determining who has Parental Responsibility for a child can often be a complex area of law. Whilst it is assumed that both parents of the child will hold Parental Responsibility, this is not always the case. The need to determine who, in the eyes of the law, has Parental Responsibility is a truly important decision and bears an impact upon the child’s upbringing and day-to-day life. 

Individuals with Parental Responsibility can make decisions relating to a child including:

  • Choosing the child’s education and school;
  • Choosing the child’s name;
  • Consenting to medical treatment;
  • Taking the child on overseas trips; and
  • Deciding on the child’s religion/religious upbringing.

Who has Parental Responsibility?

Parental Responsibility is automatically bestowed upon all birth mothers. However, only fathers who are married to the birth mother at the time the child was born and those registered on the child’s birth certificate will automatically hold Parental Responsibility. 

By not attending the registration of the child’s birth, those who are not married or in a civil partnership with the birth mother run the risk of forgoing their parental responsibility for the child and thereby face difficulty making or contributing to the sorts of decisions mentioned above. In these circumstances it may be necessary to re-register the birth with the mother’s consent or enter into a formal agreement. However, where the mother does not agree to such action, it may be necessary to apply to the Court to obtain a Parental Responsibility Order.

What about stepparents?

Parental Responsibility is not restricted to just the parents of the child. Several people can have Parental Responsibility for a child including stepparents. In these circumstances, Parental Responsibility is never automatically bestowed upon an individual but rather, as mentioned above, they would require a Parental Responsibility agreement witnessed by the Court or need to apply to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order. Another option which may be of particular interest to stepparents is to adopt the child concerned. It is important to mention here that a stepparent does not automatically inherit Parental Responsibility for a child by entering into a marriage with the birth mother.

We used a surrogate to start a family – who has Parental Responsibility?

Where the parents have started a family by way of surrogacy, the surrogate mother holds automatic Parental Responsibility for the child by virtue of the fact that she is the birth mother. In these circumstances, a formal agreement allowing that Parental Responsibility to be transferred is the most practical and sensible approach and thought should be given to this from the outset.

I have concerns or questions about my position

If you have any questions or concerns regarding Parental Responsibility, for example you may be unsure as to whether you hold it, you have questions about obtaining it, or you have a question about the possibility of removing Parental Responsibility, our Family Solicitors would be more than happy to have a chat with you in a free initial consultation.

To request a consultation, please email our Family Law Solicitors at or call us on 0113 322 9222.