This is a precise legal term introduced
by the Children Act 1989.
The parent or parents with parental
responsibility have certain duties towards the child and they make
fundamental decisions in respect of the child’s life.
If the parents of the child are
married, both the mother and the father automatically have parental
responsibility.This may not be the case if the father and mother are
not married. After December 2003 an unmarried father will have
parental responsibility if he is on the child’s birth
Even if one of the parents does not
have parental responsibility, he can have parental responsibility
with the agreement of the mother or alternatively obtain it by way
of Court Order.
In a Divorce, the Court will generally leave
the arrangements concerning the children up to the Divorcing couple.
It is only if no agreement can be reached that one of the parties
may need to apply for one of the Orders under the Children Act
This is an Order for the child or children to
live with one or other parent. It is becoming increasingly common to
have Joint Residence Orders.
This is an Order requiring the person
with whom the child or children lives, to allow the children to have
contact with the other parent.
If the parent with care is concerned
about how the contact parent may behave and convinces the Court of
this, the Court may attach conditions to the Order. There are many
types of Contact Order that can be obtained from ‘staying’ contact
down to only ‘postal’ contact
In short, this Order means a parent cannot
do something without the Court’s approval, for example taking the
As the name indicates, this is an Order
determining a specific issue or problem which has arisen or which
may arise in connection with any aspect of parental
responsibility.Any Application for any of the above Orders can be
made by any parent or guardian of the child including the unmarried
father of the child and anybody who had a Residence Order.
Family – unmarried
The law relating to
unmarried couples is completely different from the law surrounding
married couples. Co-habitees have more limited rights than married
couples for example, a co-habitee does not have any right to
maintenance for himself or herself but only for the benefit of any
children.There are also limited circumstances in which a Lump Sum
Order can be obtained.
It is likely that this area of law will be
changing in the not too distant future.