Q. What is parental responsibility?
A. It is the rights and duties which parents have towards their children. Parental
Responsibility means making responsibility for them while they are a child and taking
decisions about them.
Q. Who has Parental Responsibility?
A. All mothers have Parental Responsibility. A father will have Parental Responsibility if
he is or was married to the child’s mother. If the father was not married to the mother he
may have obtained Parental Responsibility by making an agreement with the mother or
by an Order of the court.
From 1st December 2003, fathers who register a child's birth with the mother
automatically gain Parental Responsibility. This will only apply to children who are
registered after 1st December 2003.
If a father's name was put on a birth certificate before 1st December 2003, he will not
have parental responsibility unless he has either been married to the mother or he has
obtained it by court order or agreement. If a father's name was not on the birth certificate
before 1st December 2003, he can apply with the mother’s agreement to re-register your
Q. Can anyone else hold Parental Responsibility?
A. Yes. If a child moves to live with a member of its family other than its parents (e.g.
grandparents, aunt or uncle or older brother or sister) or with someone else, those persons
may obtain Parental Responsibility for the child if the court makes a Residence Order
Q. Do Social Services have Parental Responsibility for a
A. If any child is on a care order, social services hold parental responsibility for them.
If they are 'looked after' by a local authority without a care order, either one or both of
their parents will be the only ones with Parental Responsibility unless someone else has a
Residence Order in respect of them.
Q. Are there any decisions Social Services cannot make
about a child when in Care, either on an Order or not?
A. Yes. These are as follows:-
• Social Services cannot change a child’s name unless everyone who has Parental
Responsibility for that child agrees.
• Social Services cannot arrange for a child to go abroad for more than a month unless
everyone who has Parental Responsibility agrees, or the court makes an order.
• Social Services cannot change a child’s religion;
• A child cannot be adopted without the agreement of its parents unless the court
• Social services cannot normally consent to medical treatment if the child is old
enough to understand the issues and disagrees.
Q. How long does parental responsibility last?
A. Parents have Parental Responsibility until a child is 18. The local authority have
Parental Responsibility if there is a care order and that Parental Responsibility lasts until
a child is 18 unless the order is discharged.
Other people who have Residence Orders have Parental Responsibility as long as the
order lasts. Residence Orders run out at the age of either 16 or 18. Ask to see the order if
you are unsure.