There are sometimes disagreements about the status an adult has in relation to a child.
Disputes about parenthood
Whether someone is a legal parent affects whether they are financially responsible for a child, and what rights they have.
Disputes about parenthood might involve a question of fact (for example who is the biological father of a naturally conceived child) or a legal question (for example whether someone is the legal parent of a child conceived through assisted reproduction - find out more about legal parenthood following surrogacy, for donors/co-parents and for lesbian non-birth mothers).
Anyone with a sufficient interest can apply to the family court for a declaration of parentage which decides who the legal parents are. The court can also be asked to decide who the legal parents are as part of other proceedings.
Disputes about parental responsibility
Having parental responsibility is significant. It means that a person can make day-to-day decisions about a child's care, and must be consulted in key decisions.
Someone who is either a legal parent or the spouse/civil partner of a legal parent can apply to the family court for a parental responsibility order. Traditionally the court has applied a light test, awarding parental responsibility to parents who show attachment, commitment and motivation. However, a higher standard is applied in known donor disputes.
Someone who is not a legal parent or step-parent cannot apply for a parental responsibility order directly. However, he or she can ask for parental responsibility to be given as part of a child arrangements order, and the court will make a decision about what is in the child's best interests. In many cases, the person will need the court's leave before he or she can apply for a child arrangements order. Find out more about child arrangements orders.