Julie Taylor’s Guide to Parental Responsibility

I feel it is important to start at the end when it comes to the topic of parental responsibility, because whilst the law hands the authority for decision making to the parents, it is crucial that you place the needs of the children above your own. Use common sense, be kind and place respectful boundaries as you and your ex-partner make choices for your family. I’ve collated all the below information into a useful infographic that you can also save.

What is parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility is defined in the Children Act 1989 as the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which a parent has in relation to a child and their property. In real terms, what it means is that when certain key decisions must be made about a child, those who have parental responsibility are entitled to have input in the decision.

Not every parent has parental responsibility, however if your child’s other parent does have it, then you will be restricted as to what decisions you can make on behalf of the child without their agreement.

It is important to remember however, that the law is there to benefit and promote the best interests of the child, and this should remain the central consideration.

“Parental rights to control a child do not exist for the benefit of the parents. They exist for the benefit of the child and they are justified only insofar as they enable a parent to perform his duties towards the child, and towards other children in the family.” Lord Fraser

Who has parental responsibility?

A child’s birth mother always automatically has parental responsibility. If she is married to the child’s father at the time of the birth, or if he is named on the birth certificate, then the father also automatically has parental responsibility. The birth mother retains the option to grant parental responsibility to an unmarried father who was not named on the birth certificate. Civil partners and partners of mothers registered as the child’s legal parent on the birth certificate also have automatic parental responsibility.

What rights and responsibilities does parental responsibility grant?

Each parent with parental responsibility holds equal but independent rights and responsibilities to be informed and make appropriate decisions about their children. These decisions may include things such as:

  • Choosing who will care for the child;
  • Deciding where the child will live;
  • Providing financially for the child;
  • Choosing the child’s education and school;
  • Choosing the child’s name;
  • Consenting to medical treatment;
  • Taking the child overseas on holiday or permanently;
  • Deciding on the child’s religion.

Day to day decision making – what is someone with parental responsibility entitled to?

If you have parental responsibility, you are entitled to be consulted in respect of decisions that are made regarding your child, however, this needs to be balanced against whether a day-to-day decision significantly impacts the welfare of that child.

  • The parent with day-to-day care of the child will generally make many small decisions as to care, such as the following:
  • Who the child will see and spend time with;
  • Personal care issues;
  • The child’s activities;
  • Continuing GP medical treatment.


As a matter of courtesy parents should inform each other of the following decisions, but do not need to consult or obtain permission in respect of them:

  • Booking a holiday in England and Wales within planned holiday time;
  • Planned GP visits and the reason for the visit;
  • Emergency medical treatment;
  • The date of school functions, so that both parents can attend if they wish;
  • Any of the decisions made on a day-to-day basis.


Some decisions require the other parent to be informed, consulted and agreed

  • Choice of school;
  • Planned medical or dental treatment or ending the treatment;
  • The contact schedules for the child to spend time with each parent during term time and holidays;
  • Taking a child overseas on a holiday always requires consent of both parents;
  • Relocating a child either within the UK or abroad;
  • Religious pursuits.

If parents cannot agree on these issues between them, a family law solicitor can negotiate and, if necessary, refer the parties to a mediator to try and reach an acceptable resolution. Where there is no agreement then it may be necessary to make an application to the Family Court.

If you would like to speak about any of the issues above, please don’t hesitate to call me on 020 4542 7001 or email me [email protected].

You can see all this information displayed in the infographic below

Julie Taylor's guide to Parental Responsibility Infographic