Demystifying parents rights and responsibilities

Written by Woolley and Co Solicitors

As a parent, you will know all too well how great a responsibility you have. Raising a child can be very stressful especially for single parents or couples who separate.


It’s for that reason that in this article, Family Law Firm, Woolley & Co, Solicitors, are taking a look at how parenthood and the law work together and examines some of the facts, misinterpretations and myths associated with parenting.

A child’s rights 

Children are the focus of the law rather than parents and this is because the law asserts that a child has the right to a loving relationship with both parents. 

Parents, on the other hand, have what is known as ‘Parental Responsibility’ and this is defined as ‘the legal rights, authority, responsibilities and duties a parent has for a child and the property of the child’. 

Parental Responsibility in more depth 

What does Parental Responsibility actually breakdown as? 

Take a look at the list below that outlines 10 of the most crucial roles someone with Parental Responsibility is responsible for. How many of these were you aware of?

  • Naming of the child and agreeing upon any change to the child’s name
  • Providing a suitable home for the child
  • Protecting the child
  • Choosing the religion of the child
  • Agreeing to the child’s emigration as well as accompanying the child outside of the UK, should they need to
  • Giving consent to confidential information being disclosed about the child
  • Appointing a guardian for the child if necessary
  • Disciplining the child fairly
  • Selecting and providing for the child’s education
  • Choosing the right to be involved in the child’s medical treatment 

Parental Responsibilities for mothers, fathers and unmarried fathers 

As a biological mother you are automatically have parental responsibility in law for your child. For fathers the situation is a little more complicated. A father has parental responsibility for the child if he was married to the child’s mother at the time of birth or has adopted the child. 

An unmarried father will have automatic parental responsibility if the child was born after 1st December 2003 and he is named on the birth certificate. 

Unmarried fathers also have parental responsibility if they enter into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother of the child, or has been this responsibility by order of the court. Contrary to popular belief, living together does not give parental responsibility to the father. 

Parental responsibility does not automatically pass to the natural father if the mother dies unless the couple are married or she has made a Will appointing him sole guardian of the child. 

This is important when you consider that fathers without parental responsibility are not automatically entitled to manage any money that their child has inherited, prevent their child’s adoption, change their surname, authorise medical treatment for their children (except in emergencies), or see their medical and school records! 

What you need to know about applying for Parental Responsibility 

If you’re an unmarried father, you can apply to the court to gain parental responsibility and upon considering an application from a father, the court will take the following details into account before making a decision:

  • The level of commitment the father shows to his child e.g. how much the father has contributed to the child’s life so far 
  • The degree of attachment between father and child (this is decided by the child themselves if they’re of a certain age)
  • The father’s reasons for applying for the order. Note: the court will be trying to ensure that the father is considering the child’s best interests

Based on all of these factors, and with the child’s best interests at the heart of the decision, the court will then decide to accept or reject the application. It’s also possible for other parties, such as grandparents to apply for parental responsibility in certain circumstances. Read more about Parenthood and the Law here.


This article was written by Woolley & Co Solicitors 




comments powered by Disqus