The meaning and scope of parental responsibility

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

  • The meaning and scope of parental responsibility
  • Definition
  • Scope of parental responsibility
  • Housing and looking after the child
  • Discipline
  • Protection and maintenance
  • Contact
  • Education
  • Religious upbringing
  • Consent to medical treatment
  • More...

The meaning and scope of parental responsibility


Parental responsibility is concerned with the care and upbringing of a child until they grow up.

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.

It also includes the rights, powers and duties that a guardian of the child's estate (appointed before ChA 1989 came into force) had in relation to the child's property. Those rights include the right to receive or recover in the guardian's own name, for the benefit of the child, property of whatever description and wherever situated that the child is entitled to receive or recover.

It does not include rights of succession to a child's property.

Note the following:

  1. exercise of parental responsibility may be qualified by agreement of the parties, eg a father agreeing that a child may live with the mother

  2. parental responsibility may become less extensive the older the child gets

  3. the extent of the parental responsibility varies depending on who has it, eg it is wider if it is a parent than if it is a non-parent

  4. even where, for example, an unmarried father does not have parental responsibility, he still has obligations towards the child such as the statutory duty to maintain

  5. parental rights exist for the benefit

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