Dads’ FAQs: Parental Responsibility

13 October 2012


Questions we have been asked include:

‘What is Parental Responsibility?’

‘When does an unmarried father have Parental Responsibility?’

‘How do we get a form to apply for Parental Responsibility?’

‘Can a stepfather get Parental Responsibility? What do we need to do?’

‘How do I get PR if the mother doesn’t want me to have it?’

‘I have Parental Responsibility: doesn’t that mean my children’s mother has to let me see them?’

Parental Responsibility is the legal status that gives an adult rights and responsibilities over a child. Fathers, unlike mothers, do not automatically have Parental Responsibility from birth, even if the dad has lived with the mother for a long time. Married parents, however, both automatically have Parental Responsibility. Note that Parental Responsibility does not guarantee a separated father contact with his child, though it is a step in the right direction. Also, Parental Responsibility can be granted to grandparents, stepparents, same-sex partners and others who have day to day care of the child.

Key roles for those with Parental Responsibility include: providing a home for the child, protecting and maintaining the child, agreeing to the child’s medical treatment, disciplining the child, choosing and providing the child’s education and being responsible for the child’s property. For up to date guidance on Parental Responsibility and how to obtain it, read our guide.

Sometimes dads only realise they don’t have PR – or only realise its significance – if they split up from their child’s mother (especially if they weren’t married). For support to work through separation issues, you may find it useful to get in touch with Families Need Fathers – visit their website. Depending on where you are, FNF may have a local branch that can offer face-to-face support. It also offers a helpline 0300 0300 363 (Monday to Friday, 6pm-10pm) or you can email If what you want is greater involvement in your child’s life, making sure you have PR is a good first step. But bear in mind that many dads have leapt into an aggressive pursuit of their rights as a father, and paid a heavy price – so try family mediation before going down any legal routes. For advice on mediation, see our Dads’ FAQ on Separation (you’ll find it via the link below).

Find links to other Dads’ FAQs articles here.


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