Parental Responsibility is a legal term which means you have the right to make decisions on behalf of your children including; where they live, where they go to school and what medical treatment they receive. Only mothers have automatic Parental Responsibility, so how do fathers get Parental Responsibility?
Birth fathers can gain Parental Responsibility in a number of ways. If you are married to the mother at birth or subsequently, you will have Parental Responsibility. Unmarried fathers will have Parental Responsibility if your child was born after 1st December 2003 and your name is on the birth certificate. If not of these apply to you or your child you do not have Parental Responsibility. If you separate with the mother, you may not have a say in important decisions in your child’s life.
How birth fathers can get Parental Responsibility
If you and the mother of your child agree you should have Parental Responsibility, then it is fairly straightforward. You can re-register the birth of your child and add your name to the birth certificate. Alternatively, you can get a Parental Responsibility Agreement which must be approved by a local family court.
If the mother doesn’t agree to a Parental Responsibility Agreement, you will need to make an application to the court. When reviewing the application the court will consider:
- The level of commitment shown by you to your child
- The level of attachment between you and your child
- Your reasons for applying for the order
The court will always consider the child’s best interest and will not unreasonably reject an application.
Step-fathers do not have Parental Responsibility and cannot obtain Parental Responsibility for a child simply by marrying the mother.
How step fathers can get Parental Responsibility
Previously, the only way a step-father could get Parental Responsibility for a step-child is by legally adopting the child, or by gaining a Residence Order. However, there are now very specific ways in which step-fathers can obtain Parental Responsibility:
- By legally adopting your step-child
- Obtaining a Parental Responsibility Agreement that has been signed by all other people with Parental Responsibility (this can include the birth father)
- If all people with Parental Responsibility don’t sign the Parental Responsibility Agreement, you can apply for a Parental Responsibility Order through the court
- Rarely, courts might make a Child Arrangement Order where the child lives with you, either on your own or with another person e.g. the mother
Getting a Parental Responsibility Agreement or Order
There are two requirements for obtaining Parental Responsibility by agreement:
- You must be married to the biological mother
- You must have signed consent from every person with Parental Responsibility
If you can’t get consent from everyone with Parental Responsibility you can apply for a Parental Responsibility Order from court.
Effects of a step-father Parental Responsibility Agreement
A Parental Responsibility Agreement grants you the same legal rights and obligations as the biological father. It does not:
- Remove Parental Responsibility from the biological father
- Give you a greater say than the biological father in the child’s upbringing (but it does give you an equal say)
- Make you liable to pay maintenance for the child
- If you separate from the child’s parent or move out, it doesn’t give you an automatic right to see the child.
If you don’t have Parental Responsibility and would like to obtain it, or have any questions, please contact us in London (West Drayton) on 01895 449288 or in Hertfordshire (St Albans) on 01727 840900 or by email via our contact page.