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Parental responsibility

A person with parental responsibility is responsible for the care and wellbeing of their child. Section 3 of the Children Act 1989 explains parental responsibility as “All the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority, which by law a parent has in relation to the child…”.

Unless a Family Court order says something different, a person with parental responsibility can make important decisions about a child’s life.

For example:

  • Providing a home for the child
  • Protecting and caring for the child
  • Consenting to the child’s medical or dental treatment.

All birth mothers have parental responsibility for their child, unless their child has since been adopted. See our Mothers page for information about mothers, stepmothers, second female parents and parental responsibility.

A father may have, or obtain, parental responsibility for a child depending on the situation. See our Fathers page for information and advice about fathers, stepfathers and parental responsibility.

See our Kinship carers page for information about what happens to parental responsibility when a child is raised in different types of kinship care arrangement.

It may be helpful to open or download our guide Parental responsibility – quick facts. This includes a table showing who has parental responsibility. And the different people who can obtain it.  It also answers questions about:

  • Whether parental responsibility can come to an end
  • Decision making and parental responsibility
  • Limits to parental responsibility, and
  • Taking a child abroad.
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