• Parental Responsibility
  • Private adoption and Step-parent adoption
  • Advice on UK adoption agencies

Parental responsibility is a legal concept derived from the Children Act 1989 and consists of the ‘right, duties, powers, authority and responsibility that each parent has over their children’. Parental responsibility gives you the right to make and be involved in any decision-making concerning your child’s care, which includes decisions as to medical treatment, education and religious beliefs.

Parental responsibility between a married couple, and those in a civil partnership, is shared automatically and it is expected that parents will be able to discuss and reach an agreement over such issues.

Who can have parental responsibility?

The mother who gives birth to the child will automatically have parental responsibility and so will her spouse if the parties are married at the time.  Anyone who is registered on the child’s birth certificate as the legal parent and, subsequently, anyone who is granted a parental order or an adoption order by the court will also have parental responsibility.

If a parent does not have parental responsibility, they can acquire it with the consent of the other parents and through the preparation of a Parental Responsibility Agreement.  Whilst a child can only have two legal parents, there is no limit on the amount of people that can share parental responsibility, subject to all the parties agreeing.

How can you acquire parental responsibility?

  • By marrying your child’s mother (or forming a civil partnership);
  • By being registered on your child’s birth certificate after the 1st December 2003;
  • Obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order from the court, under the Children Act, 1989; and
  • The operation of a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the child’s mother.

For step-parents who are married or in a civil partnership with a mother or father of children, then you can acquire parental responsibility by signing a Step-Parent Parental Responsibility Agreement, which we can prepare.  The alternative, and in the absence of such an agreement, is to obtain a Step-Parent Parental Responsibility Order from the courts in England and Wales, and we can offer advice on this and the preparation of the court application.

It is also worth bearing in mind that as a parent or intended parent, you can acquire parental responsibility with the application under the Child Arrangements Programme.  The courts in England and Wales have the powers to make this order within the format of that application, and, where the parties are in agreement, the application is dealt with without much difficulty.

Where there is a disagreement between parties, we can prepare the necessary court paperwork to acquire parental responsibility and to assist both parents.


Adoption is becoming one of the most popular options for parenting in the UK and can be a great alternative for parents who are unable to conceive themselves, or wish to add to their family. At present, there are a multitude of private adoption agencies in the UK, and we can offer guidance on what to expect through the adoption process. 

If you are considering adopting a child you know who is a child of the family, as a step-parent we can offer you advice on the criteria and process involved with a court application and discuss with you the best possible options. Adopting a child you know or who lives with you, can provide a rewarding outcome for all, and has been the only option for single parents who were unable to obtain a parental order, until the case of Re Z (A Child) (No.2) [2016] EWHC 1191 (Fam).

Gail Salway

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Emma Benyon-Tinker

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Kris Seed

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Anne Marie Hamer

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