Parents involved in care proceedings, or when children’s services are involved with their children, often ask about their rights. Our care solicitors will tend to talk about your responsibilities instead of rights as that is the way the Children Act 1989 talks about it.
What is parental responsibility?
Parental responsibility is defined as being the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authorities which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his or her property.
Why is parental responsibility important?
Parental responsibility gives you responsibility for the important decisions in a child’s life such as in relation to education, religion or medical care. It also enables you to take part in day-to-day decisions about nutrition, recreation and outings such as signing a consent form to allow a child to go on a school trip. It allows you to contact a child’s school or GP and ask them for information.
How do I know if I have parental responsibility?
Mum’s have parental responsibility automatically but there are different ways that other people can get it and Dad’s will only have it if certain things have happened. If you are worried about whether you have parental responsibility for your children our family solicitors can help.
It is important that you know that fathers can still take part in court proceedings and children’s services involvement with their children if they don’t have parental responsibility. If you don’t have parental responsibility there are just a few extra steps our solicitors will help you take.
The following people automatically have parental responsibility for a child at birth:
- The biological mother of a child
- If a mother and father are married to each other at the time of the child’s birth
- A parent by s42 or s43 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 if the second female is in a civil partnership or married at the time of treatment or the mother has agreed for the second female to have parental responsibility
A father can get parental responsibility for a child if:
- He marries the mother of his child
- His name is placed on the birth certificate when the baby’s birth is registered
- He enters into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother
- He applies to the court for a parental responsibility order
Other people can get parental responsibility for children including:
- A child’s guardian (appointed in a will or by a court if the child has no parent with parental responsibility) this is different from a CAFCASS children’s guardian in care proceedings
- An adoptive parent
- A person who has a parental order after surrogacy
- A local authority if a care order is made
- A Special Guardian
- A person who has a child arrangements (live with) order for a child
- A step-parent who has a parental responsibility agreement or order
You will lose parental responsibility for your children if they are adopted.
What happens if the local authority get parental responsibility for my child?
The local authority can only get parental responsibility for a child if a court has made a care order. The fact a care order is in place does not prevent you from having parental responsibility, the local authority will share parental responsibility with the other people who have a parental responsibility for the child. However, the local authority does have the power to determine the extent to which a parent may exercise parental responsibility, provided it is necessary to do so in the child’s welfare.
What can’t I do whilst the local authority are sharing parental responsibility?
While a care order is in force no person is able to change the child’s surname without the written consent of every person with parental responsibility or the permission of the court. The child may not be removed from the country without written consent or permission from the court. The local authority can arrange for the child’s temporary removal for less than a month.
What can’t the local authority do whilst they have parental responsibility for my children?
Children’s services can’t use their parental responsibility to change a child’s religion, consent or refuse to an adoption or to appoint a guardian for a child in a will.
Social services want to take my children. I’m not on their birth certificates but I’m their dad.
Just because you don’t have parental responsibility doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t play a part and be involved in decisions about your children’s future.
You will be included in the pre-proceedings process and the social worker should keep you up-to-date and invite you to all meetings. If the local authority decide it is necessary to issue care proceedings you will not be able to have a copy of the application until the court has granted you permission. It is important that you contact one of our specialist team as soon as possible so that we can discuss your involvement in your children’s proceedings
A social worker cannot take your children unless they have a court order or you agree.