Does my partner have parental responsibility for the children?

Posted: Monday May 21 2018

By: Vanessa Fox

Does my partner have parental responsibility for the children?

Parental responsibility is a legal concept covering the legal rights, responsibilities and authority a parent has for his or her child. Many parents do not realise that this is their responsibility rather than their right.

Such responsibilities include decisions about where a child lives, along with his or her upbringing, religion, education, medical care – and any property they may own.

The law requires a baby’s birth to be registered – a duty usually conducted by the mother – within six weeks of the event. The certificate should name the biological mother and father where possible.

Parental responsibility is a given for biological mothers and for biological fathers who are married to the mother when the baby is born. It is also automatically granted where a father has adopted the child and where unmarried fathers are registered on birth certificates either on or after December 1, 2003.

However, a biological father who is not married to the child’s mother, is not named on the birth certificate – or where the child was born prior to 1 December 2003 – does not have parental responsibility. Such situations can exacerbate pressure during separation, which is an already tense, uncertain time where emotions run very high.

There are a number of ways for a biological father to resolve the issue. He can ask the child’s mother to sign a parental responsibility agreement, which can be obtained from HM Courts & Tribunals Services. If she agrees, the matter is settled swiftly and both parents have a say on the child’s upbringing until they reach 18.

If the mother will not agree to parental responsibility arrangements, the father can apply for a court order stating that he has parental responsibility, which can be added to an application on any other issues relating to the divorce or separation. It is very rare for a court to refuse to make such an order if the father is seeing the child regularly and or paying child maintenance.

Once granted, fathers are entitled to share parental responsibility with the mother. This extends to having the right to take a child from the mother if there are serious child protection issues. It also gives the father the right to information about schooling, religion and relocation either within or outside the UK. This, in turn, gives the father the right to make applications in connection with these issues.

Finally, it is worth making the point that, as a parent, even if you do not have parental responsibility, you are still obliged to support your offspring financially until they are 18.