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1. What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental Responsibility is defined as all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child.  A person with Parental Responsibility cannot surrender or transfer any part of that responsibility. It is possible for people with Parental Responsibility for a child to act alone and without the other in meeting that responsibility. However, any major decisions affecting the child’s upbringing should be made with others who have Parental Responsibility for the child.

2. Who has Parental Responsibility for a child?

The mother of a child automatically has Parental Responsibility irrespective of her marital status. A father who is married to the mother, will also have Parental Responsibility. Where a father is not married to the mother, he will still automatically have Parental Responsibility for the child if he is registered on the child’s birth certificate as being the father (this only applies to a father of a child born after 1st December 2003). If an un-married father does not have Parental Responsibility it is possible to obtain Parental Responsibility by making a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother, or by applying to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order, or by obtaining a Live with Order. Where Parental Responsibility is obtained by an Agreement or an Order of the Court, the Parental Responsibility will automatically end upon the child attaining the age of 18. Same sex couples will also both have PR if they are in a civil partnership prior to starting IVF or donor insemination. In these circumstances the mother who gives birth will automatically have PR and the other parent will have PR if they are then named on the birth certificate.

3. What do we do about where the children are to live if we separate?

Parents are encouraged to reach agreement between themselves as to the arrangements for their children’s care. This can be achieved direct or with the assistance of mediation or negotiation between solicitors.

If it is not possible for an agreement to be reached regarding the arrangements for the children’s care, it may be necessary to apply to the Court for an order to be made.

4. What Factors Will The Court Take Into Account When Making an Order?

Where a Court is asked to determine any question in respect of the upbringing of a child, the child’s welfare will be the Court’s paramount consideration. A Court will have regard to certain factors known as the welfare checklist when considering whether to make, vary or discharge an order, namely:

  • the wishes and feelings of the child concerned (in the light of his/her age and understanding);
  • the physical, emotional and educational needs of the child;
  • the likely effect on the child of any change in their circumstances;
  • the age, sex, background and characteristics of the child which the Court considers relevant;
  • any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
  • how capable each of the child’s parents, and any other person in relation to whom the Court considers the question to be relevant, is at meeting the child’s needs;
  • the range of powers available to the Court under the Children Act in the proceedings in question.
5. What is the role of the CAFCASS Officer?

Prior to the court considering any matter, CAFCASS - Children & Family Court Advisory and Support Service will carry out safeguarding checks and provide a short safeguarding report setting out in brief any concerns that the parents have of the other, any involvement of social services and whether either party have any convictions.  They will then set out whether there is a need for CAFCASS to be involved further by way of preparation of a welfare report.