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Understanding Parental Responsibility

By: Angela Armes - Updated: 15 Apr 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Parental Responsibility Natural Father

As a parents you are responsible, in the eyes of the law, for the safety, wellbeing and upbringing of your child. Parental responsibility requires you to ensure that your child receives the best care possible within the family unit.Although not an exhaustive list, parental responsibility means:

  • Providing your child with a name
  • Offering a secure and safe home
  • Providing your child with good discipline
  • Playing an active role in their education
  • Deciding how your child receives medical attention
  • Nominating a guardian for your child, if necessary

Who has Parental Responsibility?

By law, the mother of any child automatically has parental responsibility for them from birth. If the parents are married at the time of the birth or they have jointly adopted the child, then parental responsibility becomes a joint venture and both parents should have a say in how that child is brought up.

If parents then divorce, they do not lose parental responsibility and are still responsible for the child one the marriage has been dissolved.

What if I am unmarried?

If a mother is unmarried, she has sole parental responsibility for that child, and all decisions relating to her child’s upbringing are hers.

However, unmarried fathers can gain legal responsibility for a child by:

  • Jointly registering the birth of the child with the mother
  • Making a parental responsibility agreement with the mother
  • Having a parental responsibility order, made by a court
From 4th May 2006, an unmarried father has parental responsibility if he is named on the child's birth certificate. Unmarried fathers can also be named on a child's birth certificate if it is re-registered, which will give them parental responsibility.

Applying for Parental Responsibility

If you do have to apply to the courts for parental responsibility of your child, you must show a level of commitment to your child as well as a high level of attachment. The court ultimately has the final decision and must take all things into account before deciding on parental responsibility. The court must also consider why the father wishes to be given parental responsibility and may look at the mother’s ability to care for the child or children.

A court welfare officer may be appointed to assess the father’s level of commitment to his children in terms of attendance and also how he interacts with them.

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[Add a Comment]
Hi , I have 2 children aged 8 & 4. My children’s father decided to have an affair when I was pregnant with our now 4 year old. This led to him leaving the family home & not sticking to his set days to see the children. Due to this I stopped all visits in the hope he would take it to court for more access ( I wanted him to be involved ) . He took it to court and an order was put into place for him to have the children every other weekend Friday - Sunday , Ive since found out that during the Saturday he leaves the children whilst he workswith his girlfriends brother who my children have met a handful of times , is this acceptable ?? This man is not a relative & I know nothing about him ? Thx
Smithy - 15-Apr-18 @ 8:36 PM
Hi. My daughter have 9 years old. My and her dad split when she have 10 months old. She’s live with me since that. His see her when they want, when his not busy with his staff. His always come first and his daughter second, his never ask if she need something. When I ask for paternal help his always refused to give. So I put child maintenance. Now his mum (not him) always ask me for her birth certificate and her ID card. I’m always refused to give her my child identification. I don’t know what for she want them. Can I get some advice for what she can do on my back? I been on citizens advice and they tell me to not give nothing from my daughter.
Cris - 4-Apr-18 @ 7:10 PM
My daughter split from her partner 13 years ago after he beat her up for the second time. Both went to court and gained shared residency. Since then the girls went to stay solely with the father and his new partner. Social services have been involved as the father has hit both girls and his new wife. Social services have allowed the girls to go back into his care as they assume that he has parental responsibility.We have now found that he does not have parental responsibility as the girls were born before 2003 and the parents were unmarried. Were social services wrong to send them back to the father?
Caz - 30-Mar-18 @ 9:22 AM
My son split up from his partner a year ago he is on all 4 birth certificates she has been using the kids to get her own way saying if he doesn't do it she will loose contact with kids which has now happened she has blocked him on there phone not let him see or speak to him we used to have them at least 3 days a week know she won't even let him talk to him it is killing him not talking or seeing them realy realy need advice if she's allowed to do this
Gates - 29-Mar-18 @ 3:45 PM
Helio, My name is Dominika, I was hoping to get some advice. Me and my ex husband we split up many years ago (2008) and we are divorced. We have a son 10 years old (born in 2007), my son don't know his father, he never talk to him or hear from his father from 2008, zero contact, he doesn't pay any child maintenance since 2008. My question is how I can take parental responsibility from my son father, what is the all procedure and how to start. Thank you in advance
NikaHibsz - 22-Mar-18 @ 4:24 PM
Hi, My children reside with me but spend approx 1 night a week with their father. I want to take them away to visit family abroad but my ex husband is saying no to this as it falls over xmas. Can he dispute that with them living with me? We don't have a court residency order or any thing Thanks
K - 14-Mar-18 @ 2:29 PM
sigha - Your Question:
Hi there,Please I want to ask if I am earning and living with my wife and children and now I am moving out in new other council flat where I will pay my rent to new council for myself there but will I need to pay anything in my last council for my children as well because they were taking housing benefits and getting it less because of my income if I leave permanently So will last council force me to pay the part of rent as well because of my parental duty and income from my job.although, I am leaving from old home/wife/children.Many thanks in advance.RegardsAhmad

Our Response:
We don't have enough information to advise properly on this really, but you will be required to pay child maintenance. The easiest way to get an idea of what you'll be expected to pay is to use the Child Maintenance Calculator
LawAndParents - 13-Mar-18 @ 10:32 AM
Hi there, Please i want to ask ifi am earning and living with my wife and children and now i am moving out in new other council flat where i will pay my rent to new council for myself there but will i need to pay anything in my last council for my children as well becausethey were taking housing benefits and getting it less because of my income if i leave permanently So will last council force me to pay the part of rent as well because of my parental duty and income from my job. although, i am leaving from old home/wife/children. Many thanks in advance. Regards Ahmad
sigha - 10-Mar-18 @ 2:08 AM
David - Your Question:
Hello,My cohabiting partner and I are separating. We have two sons 13 and 11. I have been a 'stay at home Dad' and main carer for our children for the last 8 years, whilst my partner has been the breadwinner. I am named on both boys birth certificate born 2005 and 2006 respectively. Being main carer means that I have done practically all of the day to day main caring e.g. : school runs, after school clubs, cooking, washing, sickness care, school holiday care, organising play dates etc etc. In my eyes this is being the main carer. My question is, as a cohabiting father, am I seen by the law as the main 'primary' carer assuming what I have said is factually correct? I also assume I have parental responsibility as well as the mother. Is this correct?I ask as my partner does not want to recognise that I have been the primary carer. I believe she is worried about the potential consequences that this could mean. Not sure what these consequences are. We are proposing shared care going forward but I feel I need her to recognise my present and past position so we can at least discuss things from a level playing field.

Our Response:
You have parental responsibility the child's birth was registered after December 1st, 2003 and your name is on the certificate as the father, so yes you do have parental responsbibility. Get lots of evidence together about all the work you've done as a stay at home dad, it should be fairly difficult for your ex partner to disprove anyway.
LawAndParents - 5-Mar-18 @ 1:50 PM
Laureen - Your Question:
HiI have a child from previous relationship and am currently pregnant (first trimester) with my boyfriend whom I used to live together with. He is very violent and last year Oct before I got pregnant I called police on him when he later his hand in me and he was handcuff and taken away. I asked police to warn him upon release to leave me alone after few eels he came back begging and I thought he changed. Then I got pregnant and 1mj this after he became violent with me again and I calle the police and he packed his things and leafy the house completely.The issue is the house is in his name (rent ) wen called a family meeting and he agreed to cont. to pay rent till I have the baby or ready to leave and also agreed to support me with some money every month because of my condition ( am not working yet) and did I mention he has 2 children from two different relationships before I meet him and he lied about this until after we moved in together.I don’t want to put his name of my baby certificate or have him have access or right to the baby pls what do I do? Should I move out of the house he is paying for ( I think he is doing this to want to claim the child as he said before he will take the baby from me) should I stop collecting maintenance money from him now? What can I do to stop him forGetting parental order or share custody later when my baby is grown? Should I run away or change my number pls help me!!! This man is evil and will do anything to have this baby because none of his children from his past relationships are allowed to see or visit him by their mums. Have throughly see him for who he is now.

Our Response:
We can't give you personal advice on what you should do, but if you're worried about the baby's safety there are some things you can consider (1) when the baby is born and (2) after the baby is born. (1) Before the baby is born,if you're at all unsure about your safety or that of your unborn child (eg. if you partner is violent etc), then seek advice from the police or a solicitor - it may that you can apply for anon-molestation order. Also think about your accommodation, talk to the landlord, or look for alternative accommodation.
(2) After the baby is born - are you sure your ex partner is a threat to the child? If not, then allowing him contact might be acceptabel to you. You can ask a mediator to help you draw up a contact agreement (this can be formalised in the courts if necessary). If you don't want the father to have any contact with the child you will need some evidence of why he is a risk - seek advice about your options from a solicitor or Citizens' Advice. (2)
LawAndParents - 5-Mar-18 @ 10:02 AM
Hello, My cohabiting partner and I are separating. We have two sons 13 and 11. I have been a 'stay at home Dad' and main carer for our children for the last 8 years, whilst my partner has been the breadwinner. I am named on both boys birth certificate born 2005 and 2006 respectively. Being main carer means that I have done practically all of the day to day main caring e.g. : school runs, after school clubs, cooking, washing, sickness care, school holiday care, organising play dates etc etc. In my eyes this is being the main carer. My question is, as a cohabiting father, am I seen by the law as the main 'primary' carer assuming what I have said is factually correct? I also assume I have parental responsibility as well as the mother. Is this correct? I ask as my partner does not want to recognise that I have been the primary carer. I believe she is worried about the potential consequences that this could mean. Not sure what these consequences are. We are proposing shared care going forward but I feel I need her to recognise my present and past position so we can at least discuss things from a level playing field.
David - 2-Mar-18 @ 11:56 AM
Hi I have a child from previous relationship and am currently pregnant (first trimester) with my boyfriend whom I used to live together with. He is very violent and last year Oct before I got pregnant I called police on him when he later his hand in me and he was handcuff and taken away. I asked police to warn him upon release to leave me alone after few eels he came back begging and I thought he changed. Then I got pregnant and 1mj this after he became violent with me again and I calle the police and he packed his things and leafy the house completely. The issue is the house is in his name (rent ) wen called a family meeting and he agreed to cont. to pay rent till I have the baby or ready to leave and also agreed to support me with some money every month because of my condition ( am not working yet) and did I mention he has 2 children from two different relationships before I meet himand he lied about this until after we moved in together. I don’t want to put his name of my baby certificate or have him have access or right to the baby pls what do I do? Should I move out of the house he is paying for ( I think he is doing this to want to claim the child as he said before he will take the baby from me) should I stop collecting maintenance money from him now? What can I do to stop him for Getting parental order or share custody later when my baby is grown? Should I run away or change my number pls help me!!! This man is evil and will do anything to have this baby because none of his children from his past relationships are allowed to see or visit him by their mums. Have throughly see him for who he is now.
Laureen - 2-Mar-18 @ 12:15 AM
I have been separated from my ex for over 2 years and divorced 6 months. I have a partner which I have been with for over 2 years now. She has 3 kids for her last marriage and my ex is saying she doesn't want my new partner to take care of the kids on her own. My kids love my new partner and enjoy coming to my house so what right do I have that says my ex cant tell me who can look after my kids?
Kev - 21-Feb-18 @ 7:33 PM
Hi I have 2 children and there father hasn’t seen them in over 3 years and not paid any child maintenance either.. is it possible to obtain sole parental responsibility for them? And he lose his PR(His on there bith certificates) Many thanks
Lou - 6-Feb-18 @ 9:30 PM
Me and my husband separated 3years ago we share a daughter and he won’t tell me where he lives or who he lives with as he lives in a house share with another person ,he now won’t give me his phone number so when my daughter is with him I have no way at all of contacting her if anything happened to her I wouldn’t know and I feel powerless to stop him doing this to me
Em - 29-Jan-18 @ 7:02 PM
My son is 16 and enrolled in college last year. He has stopped coming to see me and doesn’t answer my messages . He recently posted on line that he is receiving unemployment benefit. I contacted his mum she denies this , I currently contribute £200 a month as long as he is in education , I contacted the college but they will not tell meif he is still attending . How can I find out as I don’t think his mother will tell me.
Tip-top - 29-Jan-18 @ 12:41 PM
Hi I have been split from my partner for 4 months we have a nearly 2 year old together. He hasn’t had a fixed abode since we have split he has just lost his job so no doubt maintenance will be stopping soon. He sees her only on a Sunday for a few hours and doesn’t bother asking in the week how she is etc. And when he sees her he expects to stay at my flat which I have now stopped. Because of all this he has started threatening me telling me he knows his rights. And that id better not have anyone else around our daughter or he will find out. He has made these types of threats before. He has also hit my whislt we have been together, he has a terrible anger problem. And now talks of suicide what are my legal rights? Ideally I do not think he is mentally stable currently to be with her one on one and no one in my family wishes to mediate? Regards
Fezzer89 - 17-Jan-18 @ 6:50 PM
alyn23 - Your Question:
Hello.me and my ex girlfriend we split one week ago.she leaves the house woth our son of 1 year and 8 months.she lives 30miles away from me.i’m going twice per week to see him.i asked the mother if she can let our son to sleep overnight on saturday and sunday at my house once per month.she told me no, she refused me.i go to family mediaton and now i’m waiting for her to respond to this service.my question is : do I have the right like father ( my son have my name) , to have once per month my son with me at my house?thank you

Our Response:
There is nothing specific in law about the amount of contact a father can have with his child. See what the results of mediation are and perhaps aim for more contact and then overnight stays when your child is a little older.
LawAndParents - 17-Jan-18 @ 3:44 PM
hello...me and my ex girlfriend we split one week ago...she leaves the house woth our son of 1 year and 8 months...she lives 30miles away from me...i’m going twice per week to see him...i asked the mother if she can let our son to sleep overnight on saturday and sunday at my house once per month...she told me no, she refused me...i go to family mediaton and now i’m waiting for her to respond to this service...my question is : do i have the right like father ( my son have my name) , to have once per month my son with me at my house?...thank you
alyn23 - 15-Jan-18 @ 2:21 PM
Jan - Your Question:
I have a question please.my ex and I spilt up 7 years ago.I have 3 kids with him.3 years ago my daughter made allegations that I hit her.my ex never brought her back and a investigation were done and dropped.I've since tryed WhatsApp messages presents calling her.they say she don't want to see me and moved her to a far away school away from me.I've since heard there loads of abuse in the house.and that they remind her that am a nasty women.we're should I go from here what are my rights.

Our Response:
If you want to try and reinstate contact with your child it might be better to try and arrange short visits on neutral ground. If the father does not agree, try and arrange mediation (Citizens' Advice can help you find mediation services). Does the daughter have any contact with her siblings? Perhaps you could ask that this is organised first with a view to seeing you subsequently. If mediation is unsuccessful you can try the courts. If you feel the abuse allegations are true contact social services or the NSPCC.
LawAndParents - 10-Jan-18 @ 12:08 PM
I have a question please ..my ex and I spilt up 7 years ago ..I have 3 kids with him .3 years ago my daughter made allegations that I hit her .my ex never brought her back and a investigation were done and dropped .I've since tryed WhatsApp messages presents calling her .they say she don't want to see me and moved her to a far away school away from me ...I've since heard there loads of abuse in the house .and that they remind her that am a nasty women ..we're should I go from here what are my rights ..
Jan - 7-Jan-18 @ 7:38 PM
Louisa- Your Question:
I am 21 weeks pregnant and myself and the baby's father are seperated. This is due to his drug problem, I wasn't aware of this until after I had gotten pregnant. There are numerous members of his family that also have drug issues and due to this I don't want any of them to be involved with my baby. My ex's sister tries to contact me a lot demanding I give them access and threatening me with the courts, the sister also has drug issues. My ex turned up unexpectedly at my house a few days ago to return money to me that he had stollen when we was together. He wanted to speak in regards to the baby but I explained I had nothing to talk about. My midwifes have advised me that if I don't put him on the birth certificate he will have no rights to access. Is this correct? Does he have the rights to start legal proceedings before my baby is even born?

Our Response:
The father can apply to the courts to have his name added to the birth certificate if the mother has not included it at the original registration.
LawAndParents - 5-Jan-18 @ 11:30 AM
I want to take my daughter away from her mother as she has proved on countless occasions she is an unfit parent! She’s gone against social service orders regarding who’s allowed around my daughter and on one occasion proceeded to attack me in the presence of my child! I have parental responsibility so I was wondering if I can take her and then go for full custody
Nick - 4-Jan-18 @ 3:57 PM
Ay - Your Question:
Hello,I have a question. My partner and I have a child and are no longer together. He is now 5 years old and lives with her. I spend about 2-3 hours with him every other weekend, but I would like to take him out for day trips within London ( London eye, aquarium etc) and perhaps have him stay over at mine every now and then.She is insisting that I am only to spend time with him in her neighbourhood and that 3 hours is more than enough time to spend with him. We don't have any parental responsibility agreement, but I am named on the birth certificate. What can I do? as I feel she wants to control and dictate how, when and where I see my son.

Our Response:
If you are named on the birth certificate you automatically have parental responsibility. Ask your ex partner if you can draw up an agreement for specific times time (inlcuding overnight stays) that your son spends with each of you...if necessary use a mediation service to help with this. If that is unsuccessful you can apply to the courts for a child arrangements order.
LawAndParents - 3-Jan-18 @ 2:34 PM
I am 21 weeks pregnant and myself and the baby's father are seperated. This is due to his drug problem, I wasn't aware of this until after I had gotten pregnant. There are numerous members of his family that also have drug issues and due to this I don't want any of them to be involved with my baby. My ex's sister tries to contact me a lot demanding I give them access and threatening me with the courts, the sister also has drug issues. My ex turned up unexpectedly at my house a few days ago to return money to me that he had stollen when we was together. He wanted to speak in regards to the baby but I explained I had nothing to talk about. My midwifes have advised me that if I don't put him on the birth certificate he will have no rights to access. Is this correct? Does he have the rights to start legal proceedings before my baby is even born?
Louisa - 2-Jan-18 @ 7:23 PM
Hello, I have a question. My partner and I have a child and are no longer together. He is now 5 years old and lives with her. I spend about 2-3 hours with him every other weekend, but i would like to take him out for day trips within London ( London eye, aquarium etc) and perhaps have him stay over at mine every now and then. She is insisting that I am only to spend time with him in her neighbourhood and that 3 hours is more than enough time to spend with him. We don't have any parental responsibility agreement, but I am named on the birth certificate. What can i do?as i feel she wants to control and dictate how, when and where i see my son.
Ay - 31-Dec-17 @ 9:41 AM
My soon to be X husband has had the children over the Christmas period. He has been burning candle at both ends and I made him do a breathalyser test before driving the kids on the motorway to stay with his brothers family who are not big party animals. I have since found out he’s taking the kids for a night to some big drinkers and probably a very late night. Is it wrong to involve my 15 year old son and ask him to make my X do a breath test for the motorway journey back?
Abbey - 27-Dec-17 @ 12:18 AM
Sare - Your Question:
Hi.i need some advice please,i split from my ex husband 12 mths ago.he is now in prison for affray(he beat up a 17 yr old boy)and aggravated burglary.he hit the said boy and 60 yr old dad after forcing entry to their home.can I get his p.r.revoked and a residency order.he was a heroin user before sentancing and before we met he was a prolific offender

Our Response:
You would have to apply to the courts if you want to prevent your child from seeing his/her father. The courts will consider all the circumstances and the safety/best interests of the child.
LawAndParents - 19-Dec-17 @ 10:32 AM
Hi..i need some advice please,i split from my ex husband 12 mths ago..he is now in prison for affray(he beat up a 17 yr old boy)and aggravated burglary...he hit the said boy and 60 yr old dad after forcing entry to their home...can i get his p.r.revoked and a residency order...he was a heroin user before sentancing and before we met he was a prolific offender
Sare - 16-Dec-17 @ 3:57 PM
Greg - Your Question:
Hi there, I was hoping to get some advice. Myself and my wife have separated recently and we have two girls 6 and 5 (both were born when we were married). Currently I have moved out of the marital home, and the kids have been staying with me at the weekends, whilst my wife has them during the week. This has only been recent and I have an email agreement with her agreeing to 50-50 childcare (3 nights for me, 4 nights for her). She is no refusing to let this happen and I really don't know what my rights are as a father. Am I entitled to demand they stay with me for the agreed time, its really in the best interest for them. I have a 6 bedroom house (my parents, who are happy to help me with free childcare), a car to drive them to their school (less than 10 miles away), a good job etc. What are my rights as a father?The irony is, the marriage broke up due to her infidelity.ThanksGregg

Our Response:
A child has the right to contact with both parents. If your ex is not sticking with an arrangement that you agreed informally, then you should try mediation. That might help with setting out a more formal agreement and it can then be made legal via the courts if your ex continues with non-compliance.It's perfectly reasonable to expect a 50/50 shared residence agreement.
LawAndParents - 1-Dec-17 @ 10:40 AM
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