What are Parental Rights and Responsibilities?

Parental Responsibilities

 Parents and people looking after children are expected to do certain things for the children they look after while the children are growing up. 

Generally, both parents have a responsibility to give financial support to their child - even if they don’t have parental rights and responsibilities (PRRs) for a child. This responsibility continues up to the age of 18, and up to 25 if the child is in education or training up to 25.     

People with Parental Rights and Responsibilities are responsible for:

  • Looking after the child. This includes things like making sure the child is looked after when they are ill and helping them to be healthy.
  • Making sure the child goes to school or if they are not in school that they are getting an education
  • Providing direction and guidance to the child. This includes making decisions about what is best for the child and saying what the child can and cannot do, as well as giving help, advice, guidance and support.
  • Making sure they stay in direct contact with the child, if they are not living together. That means staying in touch and being involved in the life of the child and giving the child the chance to have a relationship with them.
  • Acting as the child’s legal representative. That means they can speak for the child in any legal matters which involve them – for example where parents separate or divorce or if there is a criminal case. If the child is old enough they can speak to a solicitor for themselves.

Parental Rights

People with Parental Rights and Responsibilities are allowed to do certain things so they can meet their responsibilities to the child. These are called parental rights.  People with Parental Rights have the right to:

  • have the child living with them or decide where the child should be living;
  • control, direct or guide the child’s upbringing - this means having a say in decisions about what is best for the child
  • have contact with the child if they are not living with them, and
  • act as the child’s legal representative.

Who has Parental Rights and Responsibilities for a child?

  • The child’s mother automatically gets Parental Rights and Responsibilities when the child is born. 
  • The child’s father automatically gets Parental Rights and Responsibilities when the child is born if he is married to the child’s mother

  • A father who doesn’t have Parental Rights and Responsibilities when a child is born can get them by:

 

  • being named as the child’s father on the birth certificate (if the child was born after 4 May 2006)
  • if both mother and father agree, they can make a formal written agreement that the father should have PRRs - this is called a Parental Responsibilities and Parental Rights Agreement - or
  • getting an order from the Court giving him Parental Rights and Responsibilities. The Court will make the decision about who should have PRRs based on what is in the child’s best interests
  • Other people, such as grandparents, step parents or aunts and uncles, can apply to the Court for an order giving them Parental Rights and Responsibilities. The Court, will make the decision about who should have Parental Rights and Responsibilities based on what is in the child’s best interests

 

Can Parental Rights and Responsibilities be taken away?

Yes. Parental Rights and Responsibilities can be taken away from anyone who has them - including the child’s mother. This is done by an order of the Court. The Court, will make the decision about who should – or shouldn’t - have Parental Rights and Responsibilities based on what is in the child’s best interests

How can I get an order that takes away my parent’s rights and responsibilities?

The only way this can be done is through a court order, such as a Permanence Order (see our separate factsheet on Adoption and Permanence). If you are under 16, someone must have Parental Rights and Responsibilities for you, such as the local authority (social work) or another person, like a family member.

What happens if the more than one person has Parental Rights and Responsibilities and they disagree over what’s best for the child?

People with Parental Rights and Responsibilities can make a lot of decisions about the child without having to all consult and agree with each other.

If they are reaching a major decision then they should consider what anyone else with Parental Rights and Responsibilities thinks and they must consider the views of the child, if the child is old enough and can understand what is being decided. Examples of a “major decision” include changing a child’s name, changing their nationality and emigrating.

If all the people with Parental Rights and Responsibilities can’t agree on what’s best for the child when reaching a major decision then the Court can make a decision about what is in the child’s best interests.

What rights does someone with Parental Rights and Responsibilities have if Social Work decide that a child needs to be taken away from their parent(s)?

The Social Work Department may decide that for a child to be safe or properly looked after they need to take them away from their parents and take them to live somewhere else like with another family member or in foster care.

The Social Work Department may ask if the persons holding Parental Rights and Responsibilities will agree to the child being placed in alternative accommodation. This is known as a “voluntary arrangement”. Otherwise, there are some legal orders issued by the Courts or Children’s Hearings which allow for children to be removed from the care of those with PRRs, where it is in that child’s best interests.

Travelling abroad

No-one can take a child abroad without the permission of those with Parental Rights and Responsibilities. This means that if the child is being taken out of the UK, even just for a holiday, then anyone with Parental Rights and Responsibilities must agree to that happening.

If someone with Parental Rights and Responsibilities won’t give their consent then anyone else, including the young person, can ask the court to grant an order allowing the child to travel abroad.

Passport applications

If your parent’s Parental Rights and Responsibilities have been removed and transferred to the local authority (council) through a permanence order, then the local authority should be able to apply for a passport on your behalf.

If a looked after young person wants to apply for a passport and the people with Parental Rights and Responsibilities can’t be found or are deceased, the local authority may apply for a passport on your behalf and explain the circumstances as to why your parents can’t consent.

If the people with Parental Rights and Responsibilities will not give consent to a passport application, then the young person might be able to ask the Court for an order allowing the local authority to apply for a passport on your behalf. 

More information on parental rights and responsibilities.