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Parental Responsibility

 

young child

Explained…

As a parent have you heard of the concept ‘Parental Responsibility’ (PR) and do you understand what it means?

PR is defined in law as all the rights, duties, powers and responsibility which a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his or her property.

It includes rights and duties with regard to
• providing a child with a home;
• protecting and maintaining the child;
• disciplining the child;
• educating the child;
• considering the choice of religion;
• providing a surname;
• considering what medial treatment will be authorised if required.

English law recognises the mother as automatically having PR.  The father of the child however, only holds PR automatically if he is either married to the mother or named on the birth certificate (if the child was registered after 1 December 2003).

Don’t worry if your situation doesn’t fall into either of these categories – PR can either be acquired by re-registering the child or via a PR agreement – but be aware, the mothers consent will be required.  If the mother does not agree to give her consent, then the father may apply to the court for a PR order.  Step-parents and other family members can also apply for PR and will need to seek advice from a solicitor on what steps need to be followed. 

Where PR is shared between individuals, if any major issues arise such as medical treatment, then it’s important that both individuals are consulted.  If an agreement can’t be made then it will be down to the courts to have the final say. 

Parental responsibility lasts until the child is 18, although at that upper end of childhood it should only be exercised in a way, which is consistent with the child’s evolving capabilities and maturity. 

This reiterates that PR exists for the child’s benefit and is there as a tool to help children grow into well rounded adults.  This is consistent with the principle that underpins all of the English children laws: what is placed before anything else is the child’s welfare and what is in their best interests.

Be aware that there is a right of contact between the holder of PR and a child – this can be the main source of tension if the family is breaking down/has broken down.  The important thing to remember is that the right of contact belongs to the child.  Not the parent.

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