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Fathers’ legal rights and responsibilities

Parental responsibility (PR) is the legal name for a parent’s duties to their child. Having parental responsibility means you have the right to contribute to decisions made around your child's future and how they are raised, including giving consent to medical treatment, choosing their school, and their religion.

Having parental responsibility does not mean that separated parents can over-ride each other’s wishes or interfere with day-to-day decisions relating to the children when they are with the other parent.

Having parental responsibility doesn’t mean that you will always get what you want from a court if you disagree with the other parent. You may also be liable to pay child maintenance even if you don’t have parental responsibility.

Who has parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility is automatically granted to mothers and to fathers who are married to the mother. You will also have parental responsibility if you have adopted the child or if the child was born after 1 December 2003 and you are registered on the birth certificate (in England and Wales). You do not lose  as a result of divorce or separation.

How to get parental responsibility
  1. If the mother agrees, you can both sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement form. You can access the application from the Parental rights and responsibilities section of or ask at your local county court.

  2. If the mother doesn’t agree, you can apply for a Parental Responsibility Order from the court. In considering an application from a father, the court will take the following into account:
  • the degree of commitment shown by the father to his child
  • the degree of attachment between father and child
  • the father's reasons for applying for the order

The court will then decide to accept or reject the application based on what it thinks is in the child’s best interests.

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