Parental Responsibility and Parental Responsibility Agreement


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The rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent has in relation to a child explained. The Guide also deals with making a parental responsibility agreement and the situation regarding stepparents.

Rights against responsibilities

The Children Act 1989 changed the legal relationship between children and their parents and the terms used to describe this relationship.  Instead of rights there is responsibility and the term parental responsibility has come to play a major part in a parent’s relationship with the child. 

The law now emphasises the duties and responsibility which a parent has towards their child rather than rights which that parent has over the child. 

Section 3 of the Children Act 1989 explains the meaning of ‘parental responsibility’

(1) In this Act ‘parental responsibility’ means all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property.

(2) It also includes the rights, powers and duties which a Guardian of the child’s estate has in relation to the child and his property.

(3) The rights referred to in subsection (2) include, in particular, the right of the Guardian to receive or recover in his own name, for the benefit of the child, property of whatever description and wherever situated which the child is entitled to receive or recover.

(4) The fact that a person has, or does not have, parental responsibility for a child shall not affect: (a) Any obligation which he may have in relation to the child (such as a statutory duty to maintain the child); or (b) Any rights which, in the event of the child’s death, he (or any other person) may have in relation to the child’s property.

(5) A person who (a) does not have parental responsibility for a particular child; but (b) has care of the childmay (subject to the provisions of this Act) do what is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case for the purpose of safeguarding or promoting the child’s welfare.


Contents 1

Rights against responsibilities 2

Who has parental responsibility? 3

Parental responsibility of an unmarried father 4

Acquisition parental responsibility by a step-parent 4

How can parental responsibility be obtained? 5

What does parental responsibility mean in practice? 6

Parental responsibility and stepparents 7

Unmarried fathers 8

Terminating parental responsibility 10

Frequently asked questions on parental responsibility 14
Who has parental responsibility? 14
Can more than one person have parental responsibility? 14
What does parental responsibility involve? 15
How long does parental responsibility last? 15
How does the Court decide whether a father should be given parental responsibility? 16
What does sharing parental responsibility mean in practice? 17
My child’s father has asked for parental responsibility: should I agree? 20
What will parental responsibility give a father that he doesn’t already have? 22
Attitude of other Agencies 23

Agreement for someone to exercise parental responsibility 23