England and Wales
In England and Wales, if the parents of a child are married to each other at the time of the birth, or if they have jointly adopted a child, then they both have parental responsibility. Parents do not lose parental responsibility if they divorce, unless this is done so through a court ruling.
According to current law, a mother always has parental responsibility for her child. A father, however, has this responsibility only if he is married to the mother when the child is born or has acquired legal responsibility for his child through one of these routes:
• (from 1 December 2003) by jointly registering the birth of the child with the mother
• by a parental responsibility agreement with the mother
• by a parental responsibility order, made by a court
• a residence order
For births registered in Scotland – A father has parental responsibility if he is married to the mother when the child is conceived, or any time after that date. An unmarried father has parental responsibility if he is named on the child’s birth certificate (from 4 May 2006). Alternatively, unmarried fathers can also be named following a re-registration of the birth.
For births registered in Northern Ireland – A father has parental responsibility if he is married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth. If a father marries the mother after the child’s birth, he has parental responsibility if he lives in Northern Ireland at the time of the marriage. An unmarried father has parental responsibility if he is named, or becomes named, on the child’s birth certificate from 15 April 2002.
For births registered outside the UK – If a child is born overseas and then comes to live in the UK, the parental responsibility rules apply for the UK country in which they live.
Applying to the courts for parental responsibility A father can apply to court to gain parental responsibility.
Private Fostering – It is also important for school to identify if a private fostering arrangement is in place.
What is private fostering? Private Fostering is when a child or young person under 16 years old (or under 18 if disabled) goes to live with someone for 28 days or more by private arrangement (without the involvement of a local authority) with someone who is not a:
• close relative (brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandparent or stepparent)
• guardian or a person with parental responsibility