Many lesbian non-birth mothers are now treated as joint legal parents immediately from birth (see parenthood for lesbian non-birth mothers). However, if you have children conceived before 6 April 2009, or otherwise fall outside the rules, the non-birth mother will only have parental status if you take steps to secure her position.
The most complete solution is to apply for step-parent/partner adoption. This gives the non-birth mother full and permanent legal status as a parent. It also extinguishes your child's father's position (where relevant). Find out more about step-parent/partner adoption.
Acquiring parental responsibility
You can also take steps to acquire parental responsibility, which does not affect the status of your child's father. Parental responsibility gives you the right and authority to be involved in decision-making about your child, for example giving consent to medical treatment and being involved in decisions about education and religion. It does not give you the legal status of a parent for the purposes of inheritance, British nationality or financial responsibility (although you may be financially responsible via a marriage or civil partnership). Find out more about acquiring parental responsibility.
The importance of putting a will in place
Where only one partner has parental status, a well-drafted will can ensure both that the non-birth mother has a continued right to care for your child if the birth mother dies, and that your child has a right of inheritance from you both. Find out more about guardianship and wills.
If you have separated from your partner and wish to acquire parental rights without her agreement, or if you are in dispute with your child's biological father, the law is more complex. Find out more about disputes between lesbian parents and known donor disputes.