Parental Responsibility

Parental Responsibility means all the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which a parent has by law in relation to a child. Parental Responsibility diminishes as the child acquires sufficient understanding to make his or her own decisions.

A child's mother always holds Parental Responsibility, as does the father if married to the mother.

Unmarried fathers who are registered on the child's birth certificate as the child's father on or after 1 December 2003 also automatically acquire Parental Responsibility. Otherwise, they can acquire Parental Responsibility through a formal agreement with the child's mother or through obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order under Section 4 of the Children Act 1989.

Parental responsibility can be acquired by any person through a Court Order, for example a Residence Order or Special Guardianship Order. As well as an unmarried father, a step parent or a parent's civil partner can apply for a Parental Responsibility Order under section 4 of the Children Act 1989.

The local authority acquires Parental Responsibility through an Emergency Protection Order, an Interim Care Order and Care Order. In these circumstances the local authority shares Parental Responsibility with the parents and those with Parental Responsibility, including special guardians. Parents do not lose their Parental Responsibility unless an Adoption Order is made.

Where a child is placed with prospective adopters, the prospective adopters acquire Parental Responsibility as soon as the placement is made. This will be shared with the birth parents and with the adoption agency making the placement.

The Adoption Panel may give advice on the exercise of Parental responsibility and the Adoption Placement Plan should set out how the exercise of Parental Responsibility by the birth parents and prospective adopters may be restricted.