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What is parental responsibility, who has it and how to get it if you don’t have it

We explore the definition of parental responsibility, who has it automatically and how it can be acquired.

What is parental responsibility?

The Children Act 1989 explains that parental responsibility refers to all of the rights, responsibilities, duties and authority that a person has in relation to a child and their property. In this article, we look at how the law applies in England and Wales. 

Who has parental responsibility automatically?

There are people who automatically acquire parental responsibility when a child is born:

  • the child’s birth mother will automatically acquire parental responsibility;
  • a transgender father who gives birth to a child (who will be referred to as the birth mother on the birth certificate); and
  • a parent who is married or in a civil partnership with the birth mother when the child is born.

Who can acquire parental responsibility?

Other people can acquire parental responsibility by taking one of the following actions.

A parent who is not married or in a civil partnership with the birth mother can do so by:

  • marrying or entering into a civil partnership with the birth mother;
  • being named as the other parent on the child’s birth certificate, or by re-registering the birth to record the same;
  • entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the birth mother; or
  • obtaining a court order (including an adoption order) giving them parental responsibility.

Any other person can acquire parental responsibility if:

  • they become the child’s guardian or special guardian;
  • they enter into a parental responsibility agreement with any/all other person(s) with parental responsibility (this might be a choice taken, for example, by a step-parent); or
  • they obtain a court order (including an adoption order) giving them parental responsibility.

Listen to our podcast on parental responsibility

If you have any questions about who can acquire parental responsibility, speak to our child law solicitors.

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