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Parental Responsibility (PR) was the most significant new concept created by the 1989 Children Act and can be conferred by a separate order.  The alleged intention of Parliament was that PR would enable schools, doctors and others to treat the ‘non-resident’ parent on an equal footing with the ‘resident’ parent (the parent with whom the children live on a day-to-day basis).

Parental Responsibility (PR) is a misnomer: it does not describe your responsibilities so much as your parental rights – compare, for example, with Scots law which makes a clear distinction between the two. 


PR is simply the ‘right’ to be a parent.  It enables you to be treated in law as your child’s parent, and gives you the authority to be involved in decisions regarding your child.  PR only applies once a child has been born and does not apply while the child is in utero.


According to the Children Act 1989 PR is ‘all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to a child and his property’; these include:


· Providing a home for the child;


· Having contact with the child;


· Protecting and maintaining the child;


· Disciplining the child;


· Determining and providing the child’s education;


· Determining the religion of the child;


· Consenting to the child’s medical treatment;


· Naming the child or agreeing to the child’s change of name;


· Consenting to the child’s marriage (if between 16 and 18);


· Agreeing to the child’s adoption;


· Vetoing the issue of the child’s passport;


· Taking the child outside the jurisdiction of the UK and consenting to the child’s emigration;


· Administering the child’s property;


· Representing the child in legal proceedings;


· Appointing a guardian for the child;


· Burying or cremating the child’s corpse;


· Allowing the child to be interviewed;


· Allowing the child to have blood taken;


· Allowing confidential information relating to the child to be disclosed.


Mr Justice Wall (as he then was) provided a useful pocket guide to parental responsibility in a footnote to his judgement on A v A [2004] EWHC 142 (Fam).  It is really important to understand this; abuse of these principles leads to endless misery and unnecessary litigation.


1. Decisions either parent can take independently of the other without consultation or notification:


· How the children are to spend their time during contact periods;


· Personal care for the children;


· Activities undertaken;


· Religious and spiritual activities;


· Continuing to take medicine prescribed by a GP.


2. Decisions either parent can take independently but of which they must inform the other:


· Medical treatment in an emergency;


· Visits to a GP and the reasons for them;


· Booking holidays or taking the child abroad during contact time.


3. Decisions which must only be taken following consultation:


· Selecting a school and applying for admissions;


· Contact rotas during school holidays;


· Planned medical and dental treatment;


· Stopping medication prescribed by a GP;


· Attendance at school functions (so the parents may avoid meeting each other wherever possible);


· Age at which children are allowed to watch age-restricted DVDs and video games.


If you have Parental Responsibility for your child you have the same rights over that child as the other parent, even if he or she has residence and you do not.  This is a fact of which many parents, teachers, doctors and others seem unaware, so you must assert it.  In Re G (A Child) [2008] EWCA 1468 Lord Justice Ward affirmed,


A Residence Order gives the mother no added right over and above the father.  That is the lesson that has not yet been fully learned in the 19 years that the Act has been on the statute book.  The Residence Order does no more than its definition allows.

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