Parental rights and responsibilities

What is parental responsibility?

All mothers and most fathers have legal rights and responsibilities as a parent - known as ‘parental responsibility’.

If you have parental responsibility, your most important roles are to:

  • provide a home for the child
  • protect and maintain the child

You’re also responsible for:

  • disciplining the child
  • choosing and providing for the child’s education
  • agreeing to the child’s medical treatment
  • naming the child and agreeing to any change of name
  • looking after the child’s property

Parents have to ensure that their child is supported financially, whether they have parental responsibility or not.

Parental responsibility for separated parents

If you have parental responsibility for a child but you don’t live with them, it doesn’t mean you have a right to spend time with your children. However, the other parent must include you when making important decisions about their lives.

You don’t always need to get the consent of the other parent for routine decisions, even if they also have parental responsibility.

If it’s a major decision (for example, one of you wants to move abroad with your children) both parents with responsibility must agree in writing.

You can apply for a Specific Issue Order or Prohibited Steps Order if you can’t agree. A judge will then make a decision which is in your children’s best interests.

You must make sure your children are financially supported, whether you have parental responsibility or not.

You can get help to arrange contact with your children.