Parental responsibility

Parental responsibility

The Adoption and Children Act 2002 has made some changes to the law regarding parental responsibility. An unmarried father of a child whose birth is registered after 1 December 2003 obtains parental responsibility providing that he is named on the child's birth certificate.

An unmarried father of a child whose birth was registered before 30 November 2003 has the option to acquire parental responsibility through a voluntary agreement with the mother or a parental responsibility order. Through the Court he can additionally acquire parental responsibility through the methods outlined below.

Unlike the mother's parental responsibility, any parental responsibility given via an order can be ended by the court order being discharged.

A parental responsibility order gives the bearer of the order parental responsibility.

Parental responsibility can only be ended if the child is adopted or the order is discharged.

The only person who can apply for a parental responsibility order is the unmarried father of the child or a married step-parent.

Any person who obtains a residence or special guardianship order obtains parental responsibility for a child up to the age of 18 years, unless the order is discharged.

If the unmarried father marries the mother he will gain parental responsibility through the 'presumption of legitimacy' and would thus be ineligible to apply for the order.

An unmarried father is the man who has his name on the child's birth certificate.

If a man not named on the birth certificate claims to be the child's unmarried father, a court may consider an application for a Section 4 parental responsibility order.

Mothers and fathers of children can give parental responsibility to unmarried fathers, or a married step-parent, through the use of a voluntary agreement. Once given, only a court can discharge this agreement.

The father, a married step-parent, anyone else with parental responsibility or the child can apply for this agreement to be discharged.

The local authority cannot apply for a father to have parental responsibility, although it might support or recommend it.