Parental Responsibility

Parental Responsibility

Decisions you can make if you have parental responsibility

Parental responsibility gives certain individuals rights and obligations in respect of a child. It is generally held by most parents and can also be given to others in certain circumstances.

Those who have parental responsibility need to ensure that the child in their care has their needs met, including:

  • Providing a safe home for the child
  • Protecting the child’s welfare and maintaining them
  • Caring for the child’s property
  • Making decisions on the child’s behalf

Who has parental responsibility?

A child’s birth mother automatically has parental responsibility. Fathers who are married to the mother at the time of the birth are granted parental responsibility as are unmarried fathers who are named on the birth certificate.

If you do not have parental responsibility, this can be granted to you. If the child’s mother agrees, you can both sign a voluntary parental responsibility agreement. Where the child’s mother does not agree, you can ask the court to make a parental responsibility order.

If you are a child’s step-parent or a same-sex parent, it is also open to you to ask the court for parental responsibility.

Parental responsibility decisions that you must agree upon together

Where more than one person has parental responsibility for a child, then you must both or all agree upon certain decisions and notify the other parent if you wish to take action in respect of these decisions. These issues are:

  • Where a child will live
  • Which school a child will attend
  • What medical treatment a child will have, including stopping prescribed medication
  • Changing the child’s name
  • What religion, if any, the child will follow
  • Whether the child can go overseas on holiday
  • Relocation

Decisions where you need to notify other individuals with parental responsibility

You should notify anyone who holds parental responsibility about the following decisions:

  • Emergency medical treatment
  • Taking the child on holiday while they are in your care (in any event, holidays should be dealt with in accordance with any previous agreement or child arrangements order)
  • Where there will be changes to the people living in your home
  • Moving home (where this will involve a change of school or spending time with other people, you will need anyone with parental responsibility to agree)
  • Planned doctor’s appointment

Decisions where you do not need to consult those with parental responsibility

As an individual with parental responsibility, you can take certain everyday decisions without the need to advise the child’s other parent. This includes:

  • Routine activities
  • Basic discipline
  • Attending parents’ evenings and other school functions
  • Religious services or events
  • Routine medical and dental appointments

Dealing with dispute

If you and your child’s other parent cannot agree on certain issues or you need help putting a parenting plan or child arrangements order in place, we will be able to advise you of your rights and options and can help you negotiate a solution without the need for a court hearing. Where difficulties cannot be dealt with in this way, we will be able to guide and represent you through mediation to try and resolve matters.

Contact us

If you would like to speak to one of our expert family lawyers, call us on 0800 8840 640 or email us at