The legal rights, powers, duties and authority a person has for a child and their property is known as parental responsibility. If you have parental responsibility for a child, it may give you the opportunity of being involved in making decisions about their care and upbringing.

Fiona Yellowlees, family law solicitor at WBW Solicitors, explains who has parental responsibility for a child and how it can be obtained if you do not already have it.

Automatic parental responsibility

In England and Wales, a mother automatically has parental responsibility for her child from birth, as does the father if he is married to the child’s mother when the child was born.

If the father is not married to the mother, he will also have parental responsibility if the child was born on or after 1 December 2003 and he is named on the child’s birth certificate.

If a couple have jointly adopted a child, they will both have parental responsibility, as will same-sex partners if they were civil partners at the time of the treatment, for example, donor insemination or fertility treatment.

If a married couple divorce or civil partners end their civil partnership, they still retain parental responsibility.

Obtaining parental responsibility

If an unmarried father is not named on the birth certificate at the time of the child’s birth, he can obtain parental responsibility for his child by:

  • entering into parental responsibility agreement with the mother; or
  • by obtaining a parental responsibility order from a court.

For same-sex partners who are not civil partners, the second parent can get parental responsibility by:

  • applying for parental responsibility if a parental agreement is made; or
  • becoming a civil partner of the other parent and making a parental responsibility agreement or jointly registering the birth.

More than two people can apply to the court for parental responsibility, but they need to be connected to the child, for example, as father, step-parent or second parent.

How a solicitor can help

If you want to obtain parental responsibility for a child you should consult a specialist family law solicitor who can help you draw up a binding parental responsibility agreement and ensure it is properly signed and witnessed at your local county court or family proceedings court.

If you want parental responsibility for a child but cannot agree on arrangements with the mother, our family law specialists can help you apply for a court order.

For further information, please contact Fiona Yellowlees in the family law team on 01626 202 404 or email

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.