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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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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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Will a second female parent have parental responsibility?

This will depend on the precise situation. Four different situations are explained on this page. Other helpful information and guidance see the Human Fertilisation and Human Embryology website here.

Four situations

1. The civil partner or wife of a mother who conceived through fertility treatment in a licensed clinic will have parental responsibility for a child once born if:

  • Married to, or in a civil partnership with, the mother before she had fertility treatment in a licensed clinic with donated sperm or embryos, and she
  • Gave consent to the fertility procedure.

2. A civil partner or wife will also have parental responsibility for a child if:

  • Married to, or in a civil partnership with, the mother at the time the mother conceived the child, and
  • Had agreed to be the second female parent under the ‘agreed female parenthood condition at the time the mother conceived, and
  • Married or in a civil partnership with the mother at the time of the birth.

(The law explains this in section 2(1A)(b) of the Children Act 1989; and in sections 43 and 44 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008))

3. A second female parent who is not married or in a civil partnership with a child’s birth mother will have parental responsibility for a child once born if:

  • Before the mother had fertility treatment in a licensed clinic with donated sperm or embryos, the mother agreed under the ‘agreed female parenthood conditions’ to the second female parent having parental responsibility for the child when born. See section 43 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008.

4. Where there was not this agreement, a second female parent may be able to obtain parental responsibility in one of these ways:

  • Being named on the birth certificate at the time of registration, or
  • Obtaining a parental responsibility order
  • Through a formal parental responsibility agreement with the mother following the birth (see section 4ZA of the Children Act 1989), or by
  • Obtaining a ‘lives with’ child arrangements order.

The best option for a second female parent to obtain parental responsibility will depend on what is agreed with a child’s birth mother. Click on the dropdowns below for more information and advice about each option:

Where there is agreement

Sign a parental responsibility agreement

A parental responsibility agreement form can be filled in.  This is Form C(PRA3) and called Parental Responsibility Agreement – section 4ZA Children Act 1989 (Acquisition of parental responsibility by second female parent).

The form is available from any Family Court office. Or it can be downloaded from the court service website here.

These points explain what is involved and include some tips too:

  • A separate form must be filled in for each child
  • Use black ink to fill in the form
  • Once the form is filled in BOTH the parents 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 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
  • Keep a copy for your own record
  • Send the original form with certificate of witness signed 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.

Where there is no agreement

Applying for a parental responsibility order

If the child’s mother does not agree, a second female parent may look at applying to the Family Court for a parental responsibility order. This is an application made under section 4(1)(c) of the Children Act 1989).

The application must be made on the correct court form and with the correct fee:

  • The form to complete is a Form C1 application. The form needs to explain to the court why an application is being made
  • Once the form is complete, it needs to be sent to your local family court.
  • The fee to apply for a parental responsibility order is £215
  • It may be possible to get help with the court fee if you are on benefits or a low income. Information about that is available here.

Important note: When someone wants to apply for a parental responsibility order they usually must first meet with a mediator. This is to discuss whether mediation may be a suitable way of resolving their case. And a court form about mediation must be completed and sent to the Family Court at the same time as applying for the order.

See the next dropdowns for information about mediation, the mediation form and exemptions that may apply.

Meeting with a mediator before applying for an order

The meeting with a mediator is called a mediation, information and assessment meeting or MIAM. Usually this meeting must take place before someone can make an application to the Family Court for a parental responsibility order.

Usually, someone who wants to apply for a parental responsibility order must confirm to the Family Court that they have met with a mediator.   This is shown by the mediator signing a form.

This FM1 form is then sent in with the court forms which are used to apply for the order. Information on how to find a family mediator may be obtained from here:

When a meeting with a mediator does not have to take place - exemptions

Where a case is urgent, or where there has been domestic abuse or child protection concerns, the person applying for the order may not have to go to mediation first.

To rely on an exemption for not attending a MIAM:

  • Confirm on the FM1 form what exemption applies and
  • Confirm on the form what type of evidence there is about this.

This can be done by ticking the boxes that apply to your situation in section 2 of the form.  The actual evidence does not need to be sent in with the FM1 form or the main C1 application form. But it will need to be provided to the Family Court at the first hearing.

Open or download this table to see the different mediation exemptions and how they must be evidenced.

What does the Family Court have to take into account when deciding whether to make a parental responsibility order?

When the Family Court makes any decision relating to a child, the child’s welfare must always be the court’s ‘paramount consideration’. This is known as the welfare principle. Or the paramountcy principle.  It means the court needs to think what is in the child’s best interests when it makes decisions (see section 1 (1) of the Children Act 1989. This all applies where the court is deciding an application for a parental responsibility order.

To help work out what is in a child’s best interests, the court must use the welfare checklist. This is set out at section 1 (3) of the Children Act 1989.  Read more about welfare checklist here.

When the Family Court is deciding whether a second female parent should have a parental responsibility order it has to presume the involvement of that parent in the child’s life is good for the child (‘will further their welfare’) unless:

  • There is evidence to suggest involvement with the child would put the child at risk of suffering harm
  • And this would be the case, whatever the form of the involvement.

The law about parental involvement, second female parents and parental responsibility order applications is found in the Children Act 1989 in these sections:  section 1(2A), section 1(7) and section 4ZA(1)(c).

Lives with child arrangements orders

A second female parent may want to take advice about applying for a child arrangements order saying where the child should live (see section 8 of the Children Act 1989). This order gives the holder of the order parental responsibility for as long as the order is in place.

A second female parent without parental responsibility will need the permission of the Family Court to apply for this order. And the rules about mediation will still apply.

For more information about applying to the court for an order and for legal advice if children’s services are involved, second female parents 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 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, they can:

  • Still seek legal advice from a solicitor via the Law Society website (see above)
  • Contact the Child Law advice service for legal information and advice.
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