Parental responsibility gives you the right to make and be involved in decisions about your child's care, including decisions as to medical treatment, education and religion. If you share parental responsibility with someone else, then you are expected to agree how to exercise it together. That does not mean that you have to consult each other about every decision, but you are broadly expected to agree and in particular to both be involved in any important decisions.
The mother who gives birth always has parental responsibility, as does her spouse (if a legal parent of the child), anyone properly registered on the birth certificate as a legal parent, and anyone who is granted an adoption order or a parental order.
Anyone else may need to take steps to acquire parental responsibility, for example a parent's partner or anyone else who is caring for a child in practice. Although a child can only have two legal parents, there is no limit to how many people can share parental responsibility.
If you are your child's legal father (or a lesbian non-birth mother who is a legal parent at the time your child is conceived), you acquire parental responsibility by:
Step-parents (by marriage or civil partnership)
For these purposes, a step-parent is someone who is married to (or a civil partner of) a parent who has parental responsibility. If you are a married step-parent, you can acquire parental responsibility by:
If you are not legally a parent or step-parent, you can only acquire parental responsibility via a child arrangements order. This involves a court application, but should be straightforward if everyone is in agreement.
If relationships have broken down and you wish to acquire parental responsibility without the agreement of everyone involved, the law is more complex. Find out more about disputes about status in relation to children.
Have we answered your question? Would you like advice on your personal circumstances?
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 020 3701 5915 and we will explain how we can help.