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Step-Parents: What rights do they have?

14 November 2016

In today’s world, more and more children are growing up with separated parents. In many cases, this inevitably leads to the introduction of the step-parent and in some cases, the step-parent ends up playing more of a parental role than the absent biological parent. This leaves many parents asking what rights their new partner has in relation to their child and what can they do to secure any such rights?

In short, a new partner does not automatically acquire any rights in relation to their partner’s child.

The reasoning behind this is because the rights and responsibilities associated with bringing up a child (known as ‘Parental Responsibility’ or ‘PR’) are taken very seriously in the eyes of the law and are not therefore given away or acquired automatically simply by virtue of someone entering into a relationship with the parent of that particular child. There are even certain situations where the biological father themselves does not have PR.

Who can acquire PR?

The people that are able to acquire PR are themselves limited by the law to people that are connected with the child, typically fathers without PR, step-parents, or second female parents.

It is also important to note that in the eyes of the law, a ‘step-parent’ does not include merely a new partner or even someone that lives with the parent and child, but is limited to a person that the parent has actually married or entered into a civil partnership with.

Depending on your connection to the child, you can acquire PR by way of:

  • a formal agreement or;
  • by an application to the Court, where the Court has the power to make a Parental Responsibility Order.

It is also important to realise that by a step-parent acquiring PR for a child, this does not automatically remove PR from the biological parent, as more than 2 people can have PR in relation to the same child.

Once PR is granted, this gives the step-parent the same rights and responsibilities in relation to the child as the parents with PR. This means that not only can they be involved in the day to day raising of the child, but they also have a right to have input into important decisions such as the choice of school, any medical treatment the child may require, together with decisions involving the change of a child’s name. They would also have to be notified of any future Court applications concerning the child, as they would have a right to receive such information and be involved in those proceedings.

It is for these reasons that PR is not automatically acquired but has to be legally acquired, to ensure that the decision making process when looking to grant a step-parent PR has been thought through carefully.

How can we help you?

Our team of specialist Family Solicitors are on hand to help guide you through this process and advise you on the best route to take in obtaining parental responsibility. Contact our Family Department today at any of our Cheshire based offices for a FREE initial no obligation discussion with one of our team or simply fill out our enquiry form and we will give you a call back.

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