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Parental responsibility

Parental responsibility gives a parent legal rights over their child concerning a wide range of matters, from providing a home to protecting and feeding them.

A child’s mother automatically has parental responsibility when a child is born. If the parents are married to each other, both the father and the mother have parental responsibility when the child is born.

From 1 December 2003, if the parents are not married to each other, the father will acquire parental responsibility if both parents act together to register him as the father or if the birth is re-registered to record him as the father. For registrations made before 1 December 2003 where the birth was not later re-registered after that date, the father only acquired parental responsibility by later marrying the mother, entering into a parental responsibility agreement or obtaining a relevant court order.

Where a second female parent is named on the birth entry, she also has parental responsibility.

Some things a person with parental responsibility is able to do include:

  • providing a home for the child and deciding where the child should live
  • having contact with the child
  • protecting and maintaining the child
  • determining and providing for the child’s education
  • consenting to the child’s medical treatment
  • agreeing to the child’s adoption
  • vetoing the issue of a passport for the child
  • determining the child’s religion
  • naming the child or agreeing to a change in the child’s name
  • consenting to the child’s marriage
  • taking the child outside the jurisdiction of the UK and consenting to the child’s emigration

Find further information about parental rights and responsibilities on GOV.UK.

Parentline Plus is a national charity which provides a free phone helpline for advice on parental responsibility and other matters: 0808 800 2222.