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Published On: May 18, 2020 | Blog | 0 comments

Parental Responsibility for Fathers: Who, what and how

Section 3(1) of the Children Act 1989 defines Parental Responsibility as “the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”.

It gives a person the responsibility for making all of the significant decisions in a child’s life, including (but not limited to) their name, their health and welfare, education, housing and religious upbringing.

A mother automatically has parental responsibility for her child from birth. The father will only have parental responsibility in the first instance if he is married to the child’s mother at the time of the child’s birth. If he is not married to the child’s mother, then he will not have parental responsibility unless he acquires it in accordance with the provisions of the Children Act 1989.

The issue of parental responsibility can be problematic for unmarried fathers. For an unmarried father, there are a number of routes to obtaining parental responsibility.

  1. By marrying the child’s mother
  2. Registration on the child’s Birth Certificate – s4(1)(a) Children Act 1989
  3. Parental Responsibility agreement – s4(1)(b) Children Act 1989
  4. Parental Responsibility Order – s4(1)(c) Children Act 1989
  5. Child Arrangements Order

There are numerous families that are made up of unmarried parents. According to the Office of National Statistics, the number of cohabiting couple families continues to grow faster than married couple and lone parent families, with an increase of 25.8% over the decade 2008 to 2018.


As already mentioned a father will have parental responsibility in the first instance if he is married to the child’s mother. If the parties are not married then the mother will have sole parental responsibility at the time the child is born.

Registration on the birth certificate

S4(1)(a) of the Children Act 1989 states that a father can acquire parental responsibility if “he becomes registered as the child’s father under any of the enactments specified in subsection (1A)”. This includes registration on the child’s birth certificate.

When registering the child, the mother should include the father’s name on the birth certificate. If the father’s name is not included at the time registration, but the father wishes to acquire parental responsibility in this way, then the mother will have to re-register the child’s birth to do so. This can be done through your Registry Office and you can find further information about this here.

Parental Responsibility Agreement (s 4(1)(b) Children Act 1989)

To make a parental responsibility agreement, the parents will need to complete Form C(PRA1) and there are guidance notes attached to the Form which explain the procedure for ensuring that your agreement is effective.

The Parental Responsibility Agreement Regulations 1991 set out the prescribed form that the agreement must take in order to be valid. The signatures of the parents must be witnessed by a Justice of the Peace, a Justice’s clerk or an authorized court official. It cannot be witnessed by a Solicitor. The agreement will be recorded by filling two copies with the Principal Registry and upon filing the documents an officer of the Principal Registry shall seal the copies and send one to the child’s mother and one to the child’s father.

Parental Responsibility Order (s4(1)(c) Children Act 1989)

It is possible to obtain parental responsibility by applying to court for a Parental Responsibility Order. Through this the father is given recognized legal status as having parental responsibility for the child. This is a freestanding application and does not deal with child arrangements. You can apply using Form C1 and the court fee is £232. Before applying for a Parental Responsibility Order you must attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) with a Mediator and the Mediator will certify that you have attended.

When assessing whether to grant the order, the court will consider three factors: firstly, the degree of commitment that you have shown towards the child; secondly, the degree of attachment that exists between you, and thirdly your reasons for applying for the order. They will also refer to the Welfare checklist through an assessment of all of the specific circumstances of the case. The order is most likely to be granted if it is ultimately in the best interests of the child to do so.

Child Arrangements Order (s12(1) Children Act 1989)

When the court makes a Child Arrangements Order and that child is to live with their father, the court must make an order giving the father parental responsibility, if he does not have it already.

Where a Child Arrangements Order is made for contact alone, then the court must decide whether in those circumstances it is appropriate for the father to have parental responsibility also. If it is deemed appropriate then the order must be made (s12 (1A)).

You must apply for a Child Arrangements Order using Form C100 and there is a court fee of £232 payable. It may also be prudent to enclose a completed Form C1 at the same time. As with applying for a Parental Responsibility Order, you must attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) with a Mediator and the Mediator will certify that you have attended.

If the court makes this order, they must, when granting the order, decide whether it is appropriate to give you parental responsibility. If the court decides that it is appropriate, then the court must grant a Parental Responsibility Order in your favour.

If you would like advice or assistance on how best you can go about acquiring parental responsibility, then please do not hesitate to contact us.

*Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*

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