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Our advice service

We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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By phone or email

To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

Discuss on our forums

Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

Advice on our website

Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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Is there any way a stepfather can get parental responsibility for a child?

A stepfather is married, or in a civil partnership, with a child’s birth mother or birth father.

For a stepfather to get parental responsibility, he needs either:

  • The agreement of the parents with parental responsibility, or
  • A court order from the Family Court or
  • Through adopting the child.

If parents with parental responsibility agree

A stepfather can make a formal agreement with the parent or parents who have parental responsibility.

A special form must be used. It is called a parental responsibility agreement form. The form is available from the local Family Court office. Or it can be downloaded from the court service here.

After the form is filled in, it must be signed by a court officer and sent to the Central Family Court. The address is on the form.

If there is one parent who has parental responsibility for the child, the form only needs to be signed by them. If both the child’s parents have parental responsibility, they will both need to sign.

These points explain in more detail what is involved and include some tips:

  • A separate form must be filled in for each child
  • Use black ink to fill in the form
  • Once the form is filled in the parent(s) with parental responsibility AND the step-father need to take the form to a local Family Court
  • Make sure you have the child’s birth certificate and take this to the court too
  • Each parent and the step father needs to take to the court proof of their identity. This needs to show their photo and their signature. This could be a passport or driving licence for example
  • Ask for someone at the court to witness each parent sign the form. And to then sign the form themselves (the part called certificate of the witness)
  • Any of the following people at the court can do this: a Justice of the Peace, a Justices’ Clerk, a court official who is authorised by the judge to administer oaths to witness your signatures.

When the certificate has been signed and witnessed then:

  • Make copies of the agreement so you have one for your own records and so do the parent(s) with parental responsibility already
  • Send the original form with the signed certificate of witness to the Central Family Court so that the agreement can be recorded by the court. address of the Central Family Court is on the form. The address is: The Central Family Court, First Avenue House, 42-49 High Holborn, London WC1V 6NP
  • The Central Family Court will record the Agreement and keep the original. The copies will be stamped and returned to each parent at the addresses given on the Agreement. The Agreement will not take effect until it has been recorded at: Central Family Court.

If there is no agreement

If there is no agreement, a step-father can decide to apply to the Family Court for:

To apply for a child arrangements order, a step-father will first need the courts permission. But a step-father who already has parental responsibility (by agreement or via a parental responsibility order) will not need the permission of the court to apply for a child arrangement order.

For more information about applying to the court for an order, step-fathers may want to seek legal advice. If children’s services are involved, then a stepfather can:

  • Post a question on our Parents Forum and receive advice from one of Family Rights Group’s expert advisers
  • If needing further or more detailed advice, call Family Rights Group’s specialist legal and practice advice line on 0808 801 0366 (the advice line is open Monday to Friday, from 9.30 am to 3 pm excluding bank holidays)
  • Take legal advice from a solicitor. Find a solicitor who is a specialist in children law. Or who has Children Law Accreditation. To find a solicitor, search using the ‘how to find a solicitor’ function on the Law Society website. See our Working with a solicitor guide on our Top tips and templates page for more information about finding and working with a solicitor.

And in situations not involving children’s services, step-fathers:

Who else may have parental responsibility for a child?

Open or download our Parental responsibility – quick facts guide to parental responsibility.  It includes a table showing who has parental responsibility. And the ways different people can obtain it.

It also answers from 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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