Family & Matrimonial | Parental Responsibility

Parental responsibility means the right of the parents to make decisions relating to the child, and of course the responsibility to care for, protect and provide. Parental responsibility exists for the benefit of the child, not the parent. Mothers automatically have parental responsibility.


It is sometimes assumed that all fathers automatically have parental responsibility, but this is not the case. A father will automatically have parental responsibility if either he was married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth, or married her at a later date, or the child was born after 1 December 2003, and the father is named on the birth certificate.

However, the father will not automatically have parental responsibility if:

  • he was not married to the mother, and the child was born before 1 December 2003 regardless of whether he was named on the birth certificate; or

  • he was not married to the mother, the child was born after 1 December 2003 and he is not named on the birth certificate

If a father does not have parental responsibility, he can acquire it by marrying the mother of his child, entering into an agreement with the mother and having that agreement endorsed by the Central Family Court, or by obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order from the court.

In certain circumstances a step-parent could obtain parental responsibility, again by formal agreement or an Order of the court, as could other individuals such as grandparents if it is in the interests of the child.

Parental responsibility lasts until a child reaches the age of 18. It can only be taken away before then by Order of the court. Parental responsibility brings with it a duty to protect and provide for the child. It also gives the right to be involved in all important decisions, such as whether a child can be taken out of the country, education, medical treatment and religious upbringing.

Where more than one person has parental responsibility, there is an inbuilt duty for them to consult each other in respect of all issues.

There often are disputes over parental responsibility, and it is in everyone’s interests if agreement can be reached. If agreement cannot be reached it may be necessary for the court to intervene. 



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