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IMPORTANT: With effect from 22 April 2014.
The Family Procedure Rules 22 April 2014 will come into force for all family proceedings, including adoption proceedings.
Note: The Children and Families Act 2014 The Children and Families Act 2014 (CFA 2014) covers both public and private children proceedings. In public law proceedings, amongst other things, it imposes a 26-week deadline for care and supervision proceedings (as piloted since July 2013), it scraps the 28-day time limit for interim care/supervision orders and it introduces new provisions regarding post adoption contact.
Introduction to Parental responsibility (PR) in family law is a legal status derived from the Children Act 1989. You may be quite rightly regarded as a ‘responsible’ parent by a host of organisations, even as singly responsible for your child’s daily care, but at the same time not have the formal status of a parent with parental responsibility.
Generally we will be concerned with a child’s parents and their parental responsibility but others, besides parents, can have parental responsibility for a child; for example, a local authority for children in its care, a child’s guardian, a child’s stepfather and perhaps a child’s grandparents or other relatives will be able acquire parental responsibility in certain circumstances. In some instances explained elsewhere on this webpage, unless you have parental responsibility you will not be considered to be a ‘parent’ of the child since the definition of parent in some instances only includes parents with parental responsibility. Up to six people can have PR for a child.
1.Who has Parental Responsibility?
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1. Who has Parental Responsibility?
Birth mothers automatically have PR.
Married birth fathers automatically have PR and do not lose it even on divorce.
Unmarried birth fathers do not have automatic PR but may obtain it by
marrying the birth mother
having their name registered or re-registered on the birth certificate
making a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother
obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order from the court
obtaining a Residence Order from the court.
Step-parents do not have Parental Responsibility. However, step-parents, like unmarried birth fathers, are legally responsible for the care and well-being of children who live with them, for ensuring they attend school, etc.
2. Parental Responsibility Order
What is a Parental Responsibility Order?
Parental Responsibility (PR) is defined in Section 3 (1) Children Act 1989 as: "all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property"
In general terms, this means the power to make important decisions in relation to a child - for example decisions about where a child is to live, whether a child can receive medical treatment, what religion they follow and which school they attend.
What is a Parental Responsibility Agreement?
This is a consensual arrangement made by the mother and the unmarried birth father acting together. It is a legal document and means that the parents have agreed to share parental responsibility. A step-parent married to a birth parent may obtain PR in a similar way if all those with PR give consent to the agreement.
This is a formal agreement which is signed in the presence of a solicitor.
You can apply for a Parental Responsibility Order
If you are a father and your partner/ex partner agrees to you having PR you can apply for a Parental Responsibility Order (Form CPRA1) and will not have to go to court to get this. You will enter into a Parental Responsibility Agreement, which is a type of contract. You can download a copy of this form at HM Courts Services website -
Parental Responsibility Agreement (PDF)
You will need to complete the form and both parents take it to your local County or Magistrates court. Your signatures on the form should be witnessed by an officer of the court or a magistrate.
If you go to the reception at the court they will help you. A grandparent or other relative who has cared for a child cannot apply for a Parental Responsibility Order, but they can gain PR though a Residency Order (see below).
The completed form should then be sent to The Principal Registry of the High Court. Their details are:- Principal Registry of the Family Division / The Divorce Registry First Avenue House 442 - 49 High Holborn London / WC1V 6NP Tel: 020 7947 6000 The agreement will not come into effect until it has been registered by the High Court.
You can apply to court for Parental Responsibility If your partner does not agree to you having PR then you will have to apply to the courts to obtain this.
You can apply through a solicitor or you can apply yourself. In considering an application from a father, the court will take into account the degree of commitment shown by the father to his child, the degree of attachment between father and child and the father’s reasons for applying for the order. The court will then decide to accept or reject the application based on what it believes is in the child’s best interest. 3. You can apply for a Residency Order A Residency Order states where a child should live. A father/grandparent or other relative who has cared for a child can apply for the child to be placed with them (Residency).
As with applying for Parental Responsibility you have to complete forms C1 (Application for an order) and C2 (Application to commence proceedings for an order).
You can download these forms through the HM Court Services Website: Forms and Guidance. This service provides a list of forms/leaflets that are supplied by HMCS to the public. The list is growing and will be added to regularly. The court clerks should help you with who you need to send copies to. You will be given a date for a hearing in court. You can be represented at court by a solicitor, or a friend or family member. You can also represent yourself.
How do I apply for Parental Responsibility?
You will need to complete the appropriate application form for your order which you can get from any court.
Do I need to instruct a solicitor?
You may want to get legal advice before you apply to court although this is not absolutely necessary. You can get advice from Citizens Advice Bureau and some other voluntary organisations.
Which court do I apply to?
The Family Proceedings Court (part of the Magistrates Court) can deal with straightforward cases. If you believe the case is likely to be complex or contested you may prefer to apply to a County Court.
Is there a cost?
The current fee for private applications to court is £140 per application. In certain cases this can be waived.
What happens in court?
The court will set aside time for one or more hearings. They will enable birth parents and all those with PR to be heard. A social worker – from the local authority, Cafcass or both – will be required to investigate the circumstances and report to the court. The judge or magistrate will only make an order if they believe it is in the best interests of the child. They may suggest an alternative order to the one applied for.
4. Other orders
There are a number of orders available to a court which grant the holder Parental Responsibility (PR). These are described below.
The court may decide that none of the orders below are appropriate or that an order to formalise the child's contact with the absent parent is the best solution.
This is an order that specifies arrangements to be made as to the person with whom a child is to live. This named person automatically has PR for the child and this is shared with any one else who has PR (usually birth parents). The order lasts until the child reaches the age of 16 or 18.
A Residence Order will not sever the legal ties of the child to their birth parents.
This order gives the holder a more permanent arrangement but it is not lifelong like an adoption order. A carer secures PR for the child which enables them to make decisions for the child up to a child’s 18th birthday. Birth parents with PR retain residual PR so the family link is maintained. There may be several persons sharing SGO status, not necessarily living at the same address.
Adoption is a legal way of providing a new family for children who cannot be brought up by their own parents. Birth families may be encouraged to retain some contact with the child to assist with their identity.
5. General Questions
When does Parental Responsibility (PR) end?
In general PR orders last until a child is 18.
Can PR be taken away?
Only when adoption takes place, can a birth mother lose Parental Responsibility. If the father was married to the mother when the child was born and subsequently divorced her, he does not lose Parental Responsibility (unless the child is adopted). If a father acquired Parental Responsibility via a Residence Order, he will not lose it on its expiry, unless a specific Order discharges it.
Can I change the child's surname?
Only if all Parental Responsibility holders consent to the change of name. If the Parental Responsibility holders do not agree, the parent seeking to change the name needs to obtain a court order permitting the change, a Specific Issue Order [Children Act 1989, s. 13(1)(a)].
For further information about changing a name by deed poll see: www.deedpoll.org.uk or call 0800 7833048
Can I take the child abroad?
Any person in whose favour a Residence Order has been made can remove a child from the country for up to one month without the consent of any other Parental Responsibility holders.
However, if they wish to remove a child for longer than this, or permanently, such consent is required [Children Act 1989,s.13(1)(a)].
Any person in whose favour a Special Guardianship Order has been made can remove a child from the UK for up to three months without the consent of the birth parent/s.