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Do mothers have more parental rights than fathers?

Published on 17 July 2023 | Modified on 17 July 2023

Written by Chloe Podmore

Divorce & Family

Do mothers have more parental rights than fathers?

The short answer is no. This is because every child has the right to a relationship with both parents, and provided that you both have parental responsibility, you will have equal rights and responsibilities.

What is parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility is defined in s3(1) Children Act 1989 as being “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”.

Parental responsibility includes, but is not limited to, looking after your child, protecting your child, providing a home for your child and disciplining your child. You are expected to financially support your child, regardless of whether you have parental responsibility or not.

You can exercise your day-to-day parental responsibility independently of the other parent, which means that you do not require the other parent’s permission or approval for routine decisions, whilst your child is in your care, such as what your child eats, who you delegate care to, etc.

However, it is expected that big decisions are reached together, such as deciding on your child’s school and education, medical treatment for your child, changing your child’s name, relocating with your child etc.

Who has parental responsibility?

As a mother, you automatically have parental responsibility for your child from birth.

As a father, you will have parental responsibility if you are married to your child’s mother when your child is born.

If you are in a same sex relationship, then you will both have parental responsibility for your child, if you were civil partners at the time of treatment.

How do I obtain parental responsibility?

If you are an unmarried father, you can acquire parent responsibility for your child by either being registered on your child’s birth certificate, entering into a parental responsibility agreement with your child’s mother, or by order of the court.

If you are in a same sex relationship, but are not civil partners, you can also enter into a parental responsibility agreement with the other parent in order to obtain parental responsibility.

Parental responsibility is not lost on separation or divorce, and will generally cease once your child reaches 18.  Parental responsibility cannot be removed by agreement, only by a court order.

Separated parents and contact

Having parental responsibility for your child, does not automatically mean that you have a right to spend time with your child, and there is also no set amount of time that you must spend with your child.

Although, where possible and safe to do so, the court does expect you both as separated parents to reach an agreement as to how much time your child will spend with each of you. Such agreement can be formalised by way of a Parenting Agreement or Consent Order, although this is not a requirement.

If an agreement cannot be reached, then an application to the court may be necessary, in order to obtain a Child Arrangements Order

A Guide to Child Arrangement Orders

What happens if we cannot agree?

If there is an important decision that you cannot agree on, then it may be that a Specific Issue Order or Prohibited Steps Order is needed, whereby the court will make a decision based on what is in your child’s best interests. This can include, which school your child should attend, whether your child should relocate abroad or within the UK with one parent, etc.

Child Law- Relocation- what factors will the court take into account?

How Poole Alcock can help

Our specialist team of family solicitors are able to advise and assist on a range of matters, including contact arrangements, Parental Responsibility Orders, Specific Issue Orders and Child Arrangements Orders.

Our warm and friendly approach helps to mitigate any legal issues you may currently be facing. We understand that no family or situation are the same, and so we promise to provide expert legal advice tailored specifically to your needs.

If you would like an initial consultation with our Family Law on-boarding specialists to discuss your options, please call us for free on 0800 470 0330.

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