Parental Responsibility

What is it?

Parental responsibility (PR) is defined by law as

“all the rights, duties, powers and responsibilities and authority that, by law, a parent of a child has in relation to the child and their property.”

This may include aspects of your child’s life such as determining where your child lives, the name of your child, medical treatment or travelling abroad.

How does it work?

Usually, parental responsibility is held by both the mother and father, however, it is possible for several people to hold parental responsibility for a particular child. This may for example include guardians and grandparents. If a person acquires parental responsibility for a child, it does not remove anyone else’s parental responsibility.

Parental responsibility can be exercised by a single person and everyone who holds it doesn’t have to agree on activities in day-to-day life, for example, allowing a child to visit a friend’s house. If there is a lack of agreement regarding decisions such as travelling abroad or medical treatment, for example, the court will look at and decide the best decision for the child, not the parent.

When dealing with any children matters in family law, the court must always bear in mind the ‘paramountcy principle’ which is that the child’s welfare should be above all else. If you are considering applying for parental responsibility, it is always recommended to take legal advice before doing so.

How do I acquire Parental Responsibility?

The birth mother automatically acquires parental responsibility when the child is born. The father will only automatically gain parental responsibility for the child if they are married to the mother at the time of birth. There are various methods in which an unmarried father can acquire parental responsibility for their child. These include:

  • Marrying the mother after the birth;
  • Being registered on the child’s birth certificate (for children born after 1 December 2003);
  • Entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother;
  • Through a parental responsibility order application;
  • Following a child arrangement order, the court may make a separate parental responsibility order.

Various orders are available to an individual wanting to gain parental responsibility of a child. These orders can be made so long as the child is under 18. In making the application, the court considers various factors which these include the degree of commitment to the child shown by the person applying, the degree of attachment to the child and the reasons for the application in the first place.

Can you lose Parental Responsibility?

If it has been acquired automatically, it cannot be taken away unless the child is subject to an adoption order. In other words, the child is adopted by someone else.

If the court has made a parental responsibility order, however, parental responsibility will be removed when the order expires.

Parental responsibility cannot be transferred or removed on any other basis. In a situation where the parent(s) are living abroad and the child lives elsewhere, parental responsibility may be delegated temporarily whilst the child lives elsewhere.


You may also be interested to read:

Custody and Guardianship Rights in the UAE

Mediation for Expats – A Long Term Solution for Child Custody Disputes

6 Essential Tips for Unmarried Expat Couples

The ‘Common Law Wife’ – Disspelling the Myths for Unmarried Couples