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Can Parental Responsibility Be Restricted?

View profile for Rebecca Samuels
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Parental Responsibility is defined in law as ‘all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent has in relation to the child and the administration of his or her property’.

In practical terms this means that a person with Parental Responsibility can make important decisions about the child’s life.  Commonly this includes: consenting to the child’s medical/dental treatment, choosing the child’s school, being kept up-to-date on how the child is progressing via school reports and taking the child outside of the UK.

Mothers have Parental Responsibility from the moment the child is born.

A father has Parental Responsibility if:-

  • He is married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth or they marry after the birth; or
  • He is registered as the child’s father on the Birth Certificate if the registration took place by 1st December 2003; or
  • If he was not named on the Birth Certificate, but the birth is re-registered after 1st December 2003, either jointly with the mother or by him alone, provided the mother signs a Statutory Declaration that he is the child’s father; or
  • The mother and father have both signed or authorised an agreement giving the father Parental Responsibility; or

There is a Court Order giving the father Parental Responsibility.

Others may acquire Parental Responsibility such as Step-Parents or other extended family or friends, commonly through Court Orders such as a Child Arrangement Order or Special Guardianship Order and an Adoption Order.

At Tilly Bailey & Irvine we assist clients in obtaining Parental Responsibility for their children so that they are able to have an input in important decisions on their child’s behalf.  There has been a recent surge in enquiries made to Tilly Bailey & Irvine about restricting Parental Responsibility.

Each case will be decided on its own merits but, ultimately, the child’s welfare is the court’s paramount consideration.

There have been a number of recent cases that have demonstrated the restrictions that the court is able to place on parents to curtail Parental Responsibility.  For instance, in the Court of Appeal decision of F (Children) (2014) EWCA civ 1474, the mother argued that the father’s Parental Responsibility should be removed following a number of serious domestic incidents.   The Court of Appeal accepted the Trial Judge’s view of refusing to remove Parental Responsibility but, instead, limited the way father was able to exercise his Parental Responsibility in the following way:-

‘Any school or education establishment, the boys’ GP and any agency which is contemplating providing therapeutic services . . . . must be advised that the Applicant Father retains Parental Responsibility in respect of both children and therefore should receive copies of all written communication concerning the children sent to the mother, but the Applicant Father cannot attempt to influence or be consulted about decisions regarding any aspect of the children’s education, heath or welfare unless any such agency considers it to be in the interest of either child to be consulted or involved and the level of such consultation or involvement shall be at the sole discretion of that agency’.

Ultimately, this left the decision-making process of education and medical involvement solely in the mother’s hands but the father is to be kept up-to-date with the same.  Although it may be argued that a restriction of a parent’s Parental Responsibility may potentially interfere with Article 8 Rights to Family Life, this case leaves the door open to applications to the court to restrict Parental Responsibility where the welfare of the child demands it and, indeed, is likely to have the impact of more restrictions being placed upon Parental Responsibility.   We have seen that the decision is already being taken into account, having attended court this month and obtained an Order in very similar terms.