What is parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility is the legal rights, responsibilities and authority over a child and their property. Therefore, someone who has parental responsibility for a child has the right to make crucial decisions over the child’s care and upbringing. 


For a parent with responsibility, your primary responsibilities include:

  • Providing a home for the child
  • Protecting and maintaining the child’s welfare
  • Making important decisions on behalf of the child, for example, the child’s religion, the child’s education, amongst others.
  • Deciding on the child’s name and consenting to any name changes.
  • Taking care of the child’s property
  • Deciding whether or not the child needs medical treatment.

These important decisions must be agreed upon with anyone else who also has parental responsibility.

When does parental responsibility end?

Parental responsibility will end when the child reaches 18 years old. However, there are two instances where it can end prematurely, which include:

  • The child getting married between the age of 16 and 18.
  • An adoption order overriding the birth parents parental responsibility.
Father who is married to the birth mother and has parental responsibility over his child

Who has parental responsibility?

People who automatically gain parental responsibility are as follows: 

  • Birth mothers
  • Fathers who are married or in a civil partnership with the mother when the child’s born – will not lose it if divorced/the civil partnership is dissolved.
  • Fathers who are not married to the mother but registered on the child’s birth certificate. The registration or re-registration must have taken place on or after 1 December 2003.
  • Civil partners and same-sex partners of the birth mother who are registered as the child’s legal parent on the birth certificate. However, when the birth mother is married or in a civil partnership with another woman, there are scenarios where the partner won’t automatically get responsibility. Two examples are: if the partner doesn’t consent to the pregnancy or conception resulted from sexual intercourse.

If you don’t get automatic responsibility, for example, if you’re a father who isn’t married or in a civil partnership with the birth mother, there are still ways for you to get parental responsibility.

What is a parental responsibility order?

A father can apply for a parental responsibility order if they don’t automatically have the responsibility, and an agreement can’t be agreed upon with the birth mother.

The family court’s main priority with child law matters is the wellbeing of the child. Therefore, the court will consider the following:

  • The father’s degree of commitment to the child.
  • Whether the father currently has a good relationship with the child.
  • The reasoning for the father making the application. For instance, whether the father wants to have more involvement in the child’s upbringing.
One of Britton and Times child law solicitors helping out with a parental responsibility matter