What is parental responsibility? Who has parental responsibility? Solicitor Richard Breslin outlines the details.
What is Parental Responsibility?
Parental Responsibility is defined by the Children Act 1989 at section 3 as "all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property." In paractice parental responsibility grants the authority to make relevant decisions in respect of a child and its upbringing. This would include arrangements in respect of the child's schooling, health etc.
Who has Parental Responsibility?
A mother will always have Parental Responsibility for her child, save in circumstances where an adoption order has been made. Such an order has the effect of discharging the parental responsibility of the parents and granting parental responsibility to the adoptive parents.
A father can acquire parental responsibility in a number of ways. If a child's mother and father are married to each other at the time of the child's birth they will both automatically have parental responsibility for the child. If they are not married the father will not have parental responsibility unless he has acquired it by another route.
Prior to the 1st December 2003 an unmarried fatherr could only acquire parental responsibility if ordered by the Court pursuant to section 4 of the Act. When doing so the Court must have regard to whether to ake such an order is in the best interests of the child.
Section 4(1)(b) also provides that an unmarried father or step-father may acquire parental responsibility by agreement with the mother. This requires both parents to sign and have witnessed by a Court officer a parental responsibility agreement which is then filed at the principal registry in London. The standard form is a C(PRA1) and can be found on the Court Services form finder.
Post 1st December 2003 if an unmarried father is registered on the birth certificate he automatically acquires parental responsibility by virtue of section (4)(1)(a).
Section 4 is peculiar in that they only provide for the acquisition of parental responsibility by a father or step-father of the child. It may be argued them that despite a person being registered as the child's father, post 1st December 2003, on the child's birth certificate if he is subsequently proved not to be the child's father, then it follows that he does not have parental responsibility.
That being said persons other than a child's parents may be granted parental responsibility. A Local Authority may be granted parental responsibility for a child in its care if for example a care order is made.
In the context of private law matters this would generally occur in the context of a residence order. If for example for any reason parents were unable to care for a child and that child went to live with grandparents. The grandparents would not automatically have parental responsibility and as such would have no legal standing to make decisions on behalf of the child. However if grandparents applied to Court and were granted a residence order by virtue of section 12(2) they would also acquire parental responsibility for that child.
It would also be possible for a person named as a child's guardian in a will to automatically acquire parental responsibility for a child in accordance with section 5 of the Act.
If a parent dies under such circumstance being the only person with parental responsibility for a child the person appointed as the child's guardian has parental responsibility for the child. If however there is another person with parental responsibility for the child the appointment of the guardian as provide in the parents will will not take effect until the death of that person. Unless immediately prior to the death of the parent have appointed a guardian there is a residence order in their favour. In such a circumstance the appointed guardian will acquire parental responsibility despite there being a surviving parent with parental reponsibility.
If you have any questions about Parental Responsibility, or would like help in obtaining Parental Responsibility, please contact us for more information.
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