Parental Responsibility Order - so you can make parental decisions for a child

If you are a father, but you are not married to your partner and the children are not living with you then you may not have the right to make important decisions concerning the children.

If you want this right, you can apply to the court for an order - this is called a "Parental Responsibility Order".

If you are or were married to your partner then you will already have Parental Responsibility. This means you have a right to be kept informed about your children's education, health, welfare and you can make decisions about their education, health and welfare.

If you get a Child Arrangements Order then you will automatically have parental responsibility for a child. Therefore a stepfather or other family relative who gets a residence order will also have parental responsibility.

More than one person can have parental responsibility for a child.

You may not need to go to court in order to get parental responsibility. If you and your partner agree then you can enter into a Parental Responsibility Agreement, this is a type of contract. Your solicitor should be able to give you the Form you will need and help you to complete it.

The Form must be signed by both parents and the parent's signatures will need to be witnessed by an Officer of the Court or a Magistrate. The Form then has to be sent to the Principal Registry of the High Court. See our Children Addresses & Telephone Numbers.

It will not be an effective agreement until it has been sent to the court and registered there.

Parental Responsibility and the new law

Under The Adoption and Children Act 2002 changes were made to the way in which a natural, but unmarried father can acquire parental responsibility. As well as acquiring parental responsibility by an agreement or a court order, an unmarried father who is the natural father of the child can also acquire parental responsibility if they are named as the father on the child's birth certificate. 

Unmarried fathers who are already on the child's birth certificate before the Act was passed will not automatically acquire parental responsibility under the Act, but will either have to apply for a court order or enter into an agreement with the mother.

Under the Act step-fathers can also acquire parental responsibility or enter into an agreement with the natural mother.

Care & Supervision Orders - to protect or take a child into care