Parental Rights and Responsibilities
At the simplest level, parental rights and responsibilities (PRRs) are the rights and obligations which a parent has in relation to their child.
Unfortunately, from there it gets more complicated.
Despite the use of the word “parental”, PRRs in relation to children are not only available to mothers and fathers.
In addition, not all mothers and fathers have PRRs in relation to their children.
Courts have the power to grant and remove some or all of these rights and responsibilities.
Some PRRs relate to things which parents, carers and guardians do every day without even thinking about them.
On the other hand, some PRRs are more complex and can result in disputes. This is when legal PRRs can be crucial.
What are the main PRRs?
PRRs can give you rights and responsibilities in relation to –
- Where it is that the child lives and with which other people he or she has contact. In talking about where the child’s main home is, you will hear terms used such as “residence” and “custody”. Contact is also sometimes referred to as “access”.
- Upholding and promoting the child’s health, welfare and development – which includes basic things like ensuring the child is properly looked after as well their educational needs
- Providing the child with guidance and direction in relation to their upbringing and aspects of their lifestyle. The right to choose the religion (if any) that the child follows would be included in this. The practical influence you can exert is likely to decrease the older the child becomes.
- Acting as the child’s legal representative.
For how long do PRRs apply in relation to children?
They apply up to age 16, with the exception of the responsibility to provide guidance to the child, which continues to age 18.
The mother of a child automatically has full PRRs in relation to her child when the child is born.
The father of a child automatically has full PRRs in relation to his child if –
- he is married to the child’s mother at any time from the child’s conception onwards (it does not matter whether the marriage takes place before or after the child is born) or
- he is registered as the child’s father in the UK (i.e. he is named on the birth certificate) after 04 May 2006. If he is registered, he has full PRRs whether he is married to the mother or not.
A guardian who has been legally appointed by a child’s parent has full PRRs in relation to the child on that parent’s death.
Automatic PRRs can also apply to women undergoing artificial insemination who are in a civil partnership or a relationship with another woman.
Who can apply for PRRs?
Anyone claiming an interest can apply for PRRs in relation to a child and, in practice, that “interest” must relate to the welfare of the child.
Typical applicants who do not have automatic PRRs are fathers, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and step-parents.
A biological relationship to the child is not a requirement. In fact, the child can in certain circumstances be the person making an application to court for an order in relation to PRRs.
In deciding whether or not to grant PRRs, the court must always regard the best interests of the child in question as the top priority.
Is a court action always required to confer PRRs?
There is one exception which is that a father can enter into a written agreement with the child’s mother to get PRRs in relation to their child. This does not require a court action.
However, it’s a good idea to consult a specialist solicitor to make sure the agreement is reached in a legally binding format.
Where a court action is required, in theory, you can make the application without having legal representation but we would advise you, in your best interests, to get some legal advice before starting the process.
Contact us for help
If you think you may need to apply to court to get PRRs in relation to a child or children, feel free to contact us.
We can also help you with advice if any application is made – or threatened – in terms of which there is an attempt to remove PRRs you have in relation to a child.
An initial chat is free of charge and without obligation. We need to understand the basics of your situation so we can determine whether and to what extent we might be able to help you.