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Exercising Parental Responsibility: Some practical examples

This note provides some guidance to assist persons with parental responsibility on what decisions they can make alone and those that they cannot.

What is parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility means all the rights, responsibilities, duties and authority that a person has in relation to a child and his or her property. This is enshrined in the Children Act 1989, and we explain more about who holds parental responsibility for a child in our podcast.

Parental responsibility ends when a child reaches 18, the child is 16 or 17 and marries, a child arrangements order (“CAO”) ends or is discharged or if a court makes an order terminating parental responsibility.

Disputes about how to exercise parental responsibility

When persons sharing parental responsibility are not able to agree on what is the right or best decision for the child, an application can be made to the court for a specific issue order or a prohibited steps order. Again, more about these types of orders are explained in our podcasts.

How and when to exercise parental responsibility

What is not so easily defined is how a person exercises that responsibility.

This note provides some guidance to assist persons with parental responsibility on what decisions they can make alone and those that they cannot. It is not an exhaustive list.

Whether or not a parent has parental responsibility, or indeed spends time with the child, it is a requirement that they ensure that their child is supported financially.

Issues where you must agree or seek an order from the court

If you have parental responsibility you can make decisions about: -

But you must always notify the other person(s) with parental responsibility about your proposals, and agree these issues – or seek legal guidance/make an application to the court if so advised.

Issues where you must notify the other person(s) with parental responsibility

You must also always notify the other person(s) with parental responsibility about the following: -

  • medical treatment for the child in an emergency;
  • booking a holiday (when the child will be in your care at the time of the holiday in accordance with a CAO or agreement);
  • if there will be a change to the persons living in your household;
  • moving home (provided that this won’t necessitate a change of school or the arrangements to spend time/live with the other person); and
  • planned GP appointments.

If they object, you may need to seek legal guidance.

Issues where you do not need to notify the other person(s) with parental responsibility

You do not need to seek agreement or notify the other person about: -

  • day to day activities;
  • basic discipline;
  • routine dental or medical check-ups;
  • attending school functions and parents’ evenings; and
  • participation in religious or spiritual events.

Sharing information

Good communication including updates and sharing of information between holders of parental responsibility, where possible, is always in a child’s best interests.

In those circumstances where it is not possible to reach agreement, before applying to court, parental responsibility holders should consider the variety of methods of resolution available to assist persons in resolving parenting disputes. Further information in relation to these methods will be addressed in another of our podcasts.

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