Parental responsibility—cohabitants
Parental responsibility—cohabitants

The following Family guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Parental responsibility—cohabitants
  • Parental responsibility
  • Parental responsibility at birth
  • Children born after 1 December 2003
  • Children born before 1 December 2003
  • Subsequent marriage or civil partnership
  • Parental responsibility agreements
  • Application for a parental responsibility order
  • Same-sex cohabitants
  • Case law

Parental responsibility

Under the Children Act 1989 (ChA 1989), parental responsibility means all the rights, duties, powers, responsibility and authority that, by law, a parent has in relation to their child and their child's property. See Practice Note: The meaning and scope of parental responsibility.

Parental responsibility at birth

A cohabitant mother has parental responsibility for a child from birth. Cohabitant fathers do not acquire parental responsibility for a child in the same way as a married father. The acquisition of parental responsibility for a cohabitant father varies depending on the date of birth of the child and the steps taken on registration of the birth. The position for parents who are unmarried but not or no longer cohabiting is the same as for cohabiting parents.

Children born after 1 December 2003

Where a child is born after 1 December 2003 to unmarried parents, the mother will automatically have parental responsibility and the father may acquire it by:

  1. registering the child's birth jointly with the mother at the time of birth; or

  2. re-registering the birth jointly with the mother at a later date

If neither of the above steps are taken, the father's position is as set out below in relation to children born prior to 1 December 2003.

Children born before 1 December 2003

In relation