What is parental responsibility?

Every mother automatically has parental responsibility and fathers who are married to the mother at the time of their child's birth or who subsequently marry them also have automatic parental responsibility. But if couples are unmarried, then making decisions about their children's welfare may not be easy. If you're a father, but you're not married to your partner, then you may not have the right to make important decisions concerning the children.

If your child was born in England & Wales before 1 December 2003 and you were never married to their mother, then only the mother has automatic parental responsibility. If your child was born after this date Fathers must as a minimum be named on the birth certificate or will have no automatic parental responsibility for a child. Even if the mother with parental responsibility dies, the unmarried surviving father still doesn't gain automatic parental responsibility unless the father has a court order or makes a parental responsibility agreement.

Thy Will be Done strongly recommend all fathers who do not currently have parental responsibility to arrange a parental responsibility agreement that legally sets out their right to make decisions as to the children's welfare either in the mother's absence or jointly with her.


What is a parental responsibility agreement?

A parental responsibility agreement is a contract entered into by both parents that allows both parents to have parental responsibility for the wellbeing of their child or children or can give authorisation to allow the unmarried father to have responsibility for his child in the absence of the mother. The parental responsibility agreement gives the father the right to be consulted when the mother makes major decisions regarding the welfare of the child(ren); for example, their education, religious instruction and medical care.

Step parents
Step parents do not automatically obtain parental responsibility for the children of their spouse either and we will arrange a specific application in this instance with each person who currently has parental responsibility for the child(ren) agreeing to the step father being given parental responsibility (which could include the natural father).

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How do you make a parental responsibility agreement?
1. We will make an appointment for you both to complete and sign the legal form.

2. We will then meet you at the family/county court where the legal form will be witnessed and signed by a court clerk. You will need to take the child’s birth certificate and proof of your identity, like a passport or driving licence with you.

3. We will then process the form and present it to The Principle Registry of the Family Division, First Avenue House, 42-49 High Holborn, London WC1V 6NP where it will be registered.

4. The parental responsibility agreement doesn't properly start until the date it is registered at which point a copy will be sent to both parents.