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Parenthood comes with a range of parental rights and responsibilities: all parents have the responsibility to protect and care for their children. Some responsibilities might seem obvious, such as providing for your child’s education, naming your child and making sure your child is financially supported. But parental responsibility is backed up by law, and there are some aspects that people may not know about.

So, here is the DMA guide to parental responsibility.

Who has parental responsibility?

A mother automatically gets parental responsibility when her child is born, and a father has parental responsibility automatically if married to the child’s mother or if he is listed on the birth certificate.

In England and Wales, married couples or civil partners that have a child or have jointly adopted a child have parental responsibility and both continue to have that, even after a divorce.

The options for an unmarried father to get parental responsibility are to either register the birth of their child with the mother, to get a parental responsibility agreement with the mother or to get a parental responsibility order from a court.

Can parental responsibility be transferred?

Parental responsibility cannot be completely transferred to another person. It’s possible to share parental responsibility with someone else or delegate temporary responsibility to a teacher, friend or babysitter – if proper arrangements are made with the person or people with parental responsibility.

Can parental responsibility be removed?

Removing parental responsibility is a thorny issue, but is sometimes sadly necessary for reasons of child protection. It can be very difficult and can only be done by making an application to the court and proving that it’s crucial for the child’s safety and wellbeing.

Who makes the decisions if parents don’t live together?

In relation to the child’s welfare, both parents that have parental responsibility can make decisions, alone or together.  Decisions made for the child’s personal care, activities or routine health treatment can be made by the parent with whom the child lives without the consent of the other parent.

However, some decisions can only be made with the agreement of both parents that have parental responsibility. Such decisions can include:

  • Changing your child’s name.
  • Changes to the schools the child attends and attendance at school functions.
  • Stopping medication prescribed for the child.
  • Planned medical treatments.

In addition, the parent making the decisions needs to inform the other parent for:

  • Any emergency medical treatments and planned visits to the GP.
  • Taking the child abroad or booking holidays away (this is important if you are divorced: you need written permission from the other parent before you travel.)


If you are a separated parent and need more information on parental responsibility, please contact us today. Our team offers help in all areas of family and child law.