Parental responsibility is a legal term that means you have the right to be involved in important decisions like your child’s living arrangements, education, religion and medical treatment.
It’s not automatically given to all fathers, so it’s important to understand how it works, particularly if you’re going through a separation and dealing with childcare arrangements.
Being the child’s biological father does not automatically give you parental rights. If you weren’t married when your child was born, you may not have parental responsibility. This will depend on how the birth was registered.
All births should be registered within 42 days (six weeks) of the baby being born. Birth certificates are required to have the details of the biological mother and – where possible – the details of the biological father.
In other words, if you’re not married to the child’s mother, you need to be present at the birth registration to guarantee your right to parental responsibility.
It is usually the mother’s responsibility to register the birth, but the father can do it on his own if he is married to the mother.
An unmarried father can only register the birth on his own if the mother has made a statutory declaration acknowledging him as the father of the child, or if he brings along a parental responsibility agreement or a court order.
When an unmarried father doesn’t sign the birth register, his details aren’t included on the birth certificate and he is not given parental responsibility. If this is the case for you, there are two ways to get parental responsibility:
It’s also possible to re-register the birth at a later date to include your details. You’ll need the mother to agree to this.
Parental responsibility (PR) is a legal term, defined in the Children Act 1989 as:
“all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authorities which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”.
Without parental responsibility, you don’t have any right to be involved in important decisions like where the child lives and goes to school. You could also be left out of big decisions like taking the child out of the country.
Since 1 December 2003, fathers who register a child’s birth with the mother automatically have parental responsibility. If your child’s birth was registered before this date and you were not married to the mother, you can apply to re-register the birth with the mother’s agreement, or apply for a court order or agreement.
Gov.uk has more information on parental rights and responsibilities.