What is Parental Responsibility? PR
“all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”.
It should not be thought that having PR is about your rights but instead about your child’s rights. Focus more on your duty as a parent towards your child rather than your rights over your child.
What does PR mean in practical terms?
When certain decisions have to be taken about your child, all those with PR should have a say in that decision.
Those decisions should be more about the main aspects of how your child is ‘brought up’; Not necessarily about practical day to day decisions that the parent or person with whom the child lives makes.
If you have PR the type of decisions you make are the important ones which could include:
determining your child’s education such as which school they attend;
choosing, registering or changing your child’s name;
appointing a guardian in the event of your death;
consenting to a an operation or medical treatment;
determining the religion your child should be brought up with.
If you have PR it does not mean you have an automatic right to have contact with your child:
Do you have PR?
As your child’s mother you automatically have PR and will not lose it if divorced.
If you are married to your child’s mother you will automatically have PR and will not lose it if divorced.
If you are an unmarried father you do not automatically have PR.
If you are a Step-fathers or Step-mothers you do not automatically have PR.
If you are Grandparent you do not automatically have PR.
Unmarried fathers can obtain PR?
Increasing couples are cohabiting rather than getting married. If you have a child together as an unmarried father you do not automatically have PR but can obtain it by:
marrying the mother;
having your name registered on the birth certificate;
entering into a PR Agreement with the mother;
obtaining a PR Order from the court;
being named as the resident parent under a Child Arrangements Order;
becoming the child’s guardian on the mother’s death.
If you are in a same -sex female civil partnership or marriage can you as second female parent gain PR?
As the mother’s wife/civil partner you will be treated as your child’s second legal parent if you were married or in a civil partnership at the time of conception and provided that the mother’s wife/civil partner consent to the treatment of insemination.
This applies irrespective of whether the child was conceived through fertility treatment at a licensed clinic or through artificial insemination by private arrangement at home. There is one exception where it does not apply and this is if the child was conceived through sexual intercourse.
As is the case with a married father, the civil partner/wife will automatically gain PR.
As an un-married father you can gain PR through agreement?
A PR Agreement can be made between you and your child’s mother.
A PR Agreement can also be entered into by a step-parent who is married to a person with PR or by a second female partner.
As an un-married father you can gain PR through Parental Responsibility Order?
A PR Order is an order under the Children Act 1989, which as the unmarried father you can apply for when the mother refuses to allow you to be registered or re-registered on the birth certificate, or refuses to sign a PR Agreement with him.
The process involves you making an application to court who will then decide whether or not they should allow you to have PR.
If the court decides you should have PR, the order will give you equal PR with the mother.
What if your child’s mother opposes your PR Order application?
Your child’s mother can put to the Court her reasons why they should decline making a PR order.
However, the Courts will generally be willing to make you a PR Order unless it is shown that you will cause some ‘risk’ to your child’s welfare.
Those other than parents can acquire Parental Responsibility?
Parental responsibility is not automatically granted to people who are not parents, even if, in reality, they care for and are responsible for the child on a day-to-day basis. There are several ways that a person who is not the child’s parent may obtain Parental Responsibility for the child:
by being appointed as a guardian to care for the child if those with Parental Responsibility for the child have died;
by obtaining a Child Arrangements Order from the court which requires that the child lives with that person;
by becoming the child’s special guardian; or
by adopting the child.
A step-parent may make an agreement to obtain Parental Responsibility for their step-child, providing all those with Parental Responsibility agree. The step-parent must be married to or be in a civil partnership with the mother or father to enter this agreement. This is similar to the Parental Responsibility Agreement and it will not take Parental Responsibility away from those who already have it. A step-parent could also apply for a Step-Parental Responsibility Order if they are married to or in a civil partnership with the mother or father.
Local Authorities will be given Parental Responsibility if the child is under a care order and will have it temporarily under an Emergency Protection Order.
If a guardian is appointed in a will by a parent, will they receive Parental Responsibility automatically?
A parent can name a person in their will to be a guardian for their child. The will must be in writing, dated and signed by the person making the appointment. It can also be signed by someone else following the directions of the parent making the will.
The guardian will get Parental Responsibility for the child in the following circumstances:
where no one else has Parental Responsibility for the child OR
where the parent making the will has residence of the child under a Residence Order or a Child Arrangements Order.
When does your PR terminate?
when your child reaches the age of 18;
If you die.
If your child is adopted;
where PR was given through a Child Arrangements Order, and that Order has been discharged or has expired. This would not apply to a father, unless a specific order discharges it.
PR can only be terminated through a court order.
Only when adoption takes place, can a mother lose her PR.
If you as parents cannot agree on a major decision about your child?
If you are unable to agree about a decision concerning the upbringing of your child you could try family mediation.
If this fails then you may apply to the Family Court for a Specific Issue Order or a Prohibited Steps Order.
If you have PR you cannot transfer it another person.
Contact us on 01286 269226 or 07594461181 to arrange a consultation with our family law solicitor; if requested the first 20 mins will be free of charge.