This is a term you will hear used a lot. It is a legal phrase and it means the duties and responsibilities of a parent towards a child and the limited rights a parent has over or in respect of a child. We prefer to talk not of parents’ rights but of the child’s right to see spend time with and have a good relationship with BOTH parents.Some aspects of parental responsibility are specifically legal:
- changing the child’s names
- consent to medical treatment
- consent to adoption,
- appointing a guardian.
- consent to living abroad
Some have practical aspects too:
discipline, education, going to church, consenting to school trips. For example, both parents with parental responsibility can obtain school reports and go to parents’ evenings.
You may have heard the word “custody” before but forget it. In English law the concept of “custody” no longer exists in relation to children, since the Children Act 1989 came into effect. That Act introduced the concept of Parental Responsibility
which is in fact much easier to explain and understand. The intention behind this change in the law was to encourage parents to go on sharing the duties and pleasures of being parents through separation and into the future despite not living together. Thus the child grows up knowing that he or she has TWO PARENTS who love and care for that child and who present a united front as parents in the longterm care of their child.
If you and your child’s other parent are or have been married, then you have joint parental responsibility. If you have not been married, then the mother has sole parental responsibility unless:
- There is a Parental Responsibility Agreement.
- There is a Court Order granting parental responsibility to the father.
- The child was born after 1st December 2003 and the father’s name is on the child’s birth certificate
If you marry after the birth of your child then the father acquires parental responsibility automatically as well.
Parental responsibility can be shared by the parents with grandparents or other carers or a Social Services department, but only where there is a Court Order in force.
Joint parental responsibility is a symbol of the recognition of both parents’ legal status but does not give either parent any greater rights than the other .Nor does it mean that the parent who does not have day-to-day care of the child has the right to interfere in the normal day-to-day care routine.
At the very least joint parental responsibility is one way in which a form of contact between a child and an absent parent can be preserved. Once acquired, parental responsibility is rarely lost