Fact Sheet - Parental Responsibility
Q - My partner has left me and taken the children. I’ve heard about Parental Responsibility. What’s that?
A - Parental Responsibility (or "PR") is defined by the Children Act as "all the rights, duties, powers responsibilities and authority" which a parent has: in other words, the right to have a say in how a child is brought up. It includes matters of education, religious instruction and medical treatment, but this list is not exhaustive. The emphasis is on responsibility for bringing up children, rather than parents' rights.
Q - Who has it?
A - Parental responsibility can be shared. A mother always has it, as does a married father: an unmarried father will have it if the child was born after 1st December 2003 and he is entered on the birth certificate. An unmarried father may sign an agreement with the mother or seek a court order awarding him parental responsibility. It continues until a child is 18 or in rare cases, varied by a court.
Q - What can you do with it?
A - You can require schools and health organisations to provide you with information about your child, authorise medical treatment or attend school activities and many other things. If need be, you can also apply through the courts for an order that the children see or even live with you, whether you have parental responsibility or not.
Q - Can my former partner change their surnames without my permission?
A - Changing a child's surname can only be done with the written consent of everyone with parental responsibility or the permission of the Court where there is a residence order in force. Where only one parent has parental responsibility, as a matter of law they can change the surname, but the courts do not regard this as “prudent” and the other parent could seek a court order on the specific issue of name.
Q - Can I stop the children from being moved to live too far away?
A – Relocation whether withinEngland&Walesor otherwise is a complicated subject. If parents cannot agree with whom children should live, the Court can make a decision on this for you. A court has the power to grant a full residence order in favour of one parent or a shared residence order even if there is significant geographical distance between you which is often helpful in securing the absent parent’s ongoing role in the children’s upbringing. When considering relocation, the Court’s primary concern will be the affect of the move on the children’s relationship with the non-resident parent.
Q - If a mother dies and the father does not have parental responsibility what happens then?
A - If the children's mother dies having appointed a Guardian and there is no one else with PR, then the person appointed Guardian will look after the children. If the mother did not appoint a Guardian, who would look after the children would be a matter for the Court. If the father has PR, even if the mother appoints a Guardian in her will, that appointment will only take effect when everyone with PR is dead - so the father will look after the children while he is alive.
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