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Parental responsibility

View profile for Wendy Armstrong
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Parental responsibility is defined as all of the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which a parent has in relation to a child and their property.

Not every parent has parental responsibility, however if your child’s other parent does have it, then you will be restricted as to what decisions you can make on behalf of the child without their agreement.

Who has parental responsibility?

A child’s birth mother always automatically has parental responsibility. If she is married to the child’s father at the time of the birth (or if they subsequently marry), then the father also automatically has parental responsibility. If the child’s parents are not married, but the father’s name is on the birth certificate, then he will have parental responsibility as well. It is open to the birth mother to agree parental responsibility to an unmarried father who was not named on the birth certificate by, for example, entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement.

What rights and responsibilities does parental responsibility grant?

An individual with parental responsibility can make decisions in respect of the child, including the following:

  • Choosing the child’s education and school;
  • Choosing the child’s name;
  • Consenting to medical treatment;
  • Taking the child overseas on holiday;
  • Deciding on the child’s religion.

What is someone with parental responsibility entitled to?

If you have parental responsibility, you are entitled to be consulted in respect of decisions that are made regarding your 

child. The parent with day-to-day care of the child will generally make many small decisions as to care, such as the following:

  • What the child will do while with a parent;
  • Personal care issues;
  • The child’s activities;
  • Religious pursuits;
  • Continuing GP medical treatment.

Parents should inform each other of the following decisions, but do not necessarily need to consult or obtain permission in respect of them (as this may also be subject to any Court Orders or agreements in place):

  • Booking a holiday or taking the children overseas;
  • Planned GP visits and the reason for the visit;
  • Emergency medical treatment.

Some decisions require the other parent to be informed and consulted:

  • Choice of school;
  • Planned medical or dental treatment;
  • Ending medication;
  • The date of school functions, so that both parents can attend if they wish;
  • The age that a child will be allowed to watch a film rated 12, 15 etc;
  • The contact schedule for holidays.

If parents cannot agree on these issues between them, a family law solicitor can negotiate and, if necessary, refer the parties to a mediator to try and reach an agreement.

If you would like to speak to one of our expert family lawyers ring us on 01252 733770 or email us at or

This information is for guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking full legal advice on specific facts and circumstances.