In any dispute involving a child the starting point is Parental Responsibility. This term describes who in a child’s life has the legal right to make decisions about their welfare and upbringing and can cover making decisions such as which school they attend to giving consent for medical treatment.
Who has parental responsibility?
Mothers automatically have Parental Responsibility as do Fathers who are named on the child’s birth certificate or where the parents are married. Unmarried father’s can also obtain Parental Responsibility either by agreement with the mother or ultimately by a Court Order. Because having Parental Responsibility is important for anyone with day to day care of a child, it is also granted to anyone with whom the child lives under a Court Order (called a Child Arrangements Order). In cases involving surrogacy or same sex partnerships the rules for determining who has Parental Responsibility are more complex.
Can step-parents have parental responsibility?
It is not always necessary for a step parent to have Parental Responsibility as the parent they are married to can delegate theirs. This means that a step parent act on behalf of a parent in a lot of situations.
A Step Parent who is married to or in a civil partnership with one of the child’s parents can obtain Parental Responsibility themselves. This can be by agreement with everyone else who shares Parental Responsibility (usually the parents). If agreement is not possible the Step Parent can ultimately apply to the Court for a separate Parental Responsibility Order and will be granted by the court if they feel it is in the best interests of the child.
With the possibility of many people sharing decision-making for a child problems can arise where they do not all agree and the situation can become complicated. In those circumstances it would be sensible to seek out more specific legal advice to consider your options.
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.