Having parental responsibility means you are
legally responsible for making the major decisions about your child’s
upbringing. A mother automatically has parental responsibility for her
child from the moment of his or her birth and the father also has automatic
responsibility if the couple are married.
situation is more complex for unmarried fathers, men and women in same-sex
relationships with biological parents, and same-sex couples who have a child
through fertility treatment. However, changes to family law in England and
Wales introduced in 2003, 2004 and 2007 have given these groups more rights
around parental responsibility and fertility treatment.
Gay biological fathers
2003, a gay man who has fathered a child from a previous relationship or
through sperm donation will have parental responsibility if he is named on the
birth certificate. Otherwise, he will only be granted responsibility with the
mother’s agreement or through a court order.
Gay non-biological parents
Civil Partnership Act 2004 entitles a man or woman who enters into a civil
partnership to become a step-parent to their partner’s child. The biological
parents will still have parental responsibility,
but the step-parent can acquire responsibility with their consent, through a
court order or by applying to adopt the child.
the non-biological parent is not in a civil partnership with the child’s
biological parent, they cannot become a step-parent, but they can obtain
parental responsibility through a court order or adoption.
law has now made it legal for gay men and women to receive fertility treatment
(the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008), and for this to be provided
on the same basis as for heterosexual men and women (The Equality Act (Sexual
Orientation) Regulations 2007). In
particular, the 2007 regulations require civil partners to be treated in the
same way as married heterosexual couples.
for same-sex couples the non-biological parent does not automatically have
parental responsibility in cases of artificial insemination, and cannot be
granted responsibility in cases of surrogacy. The rules may change in the
future so that both unmarried heterosexual couples and people in same-sex
relationships have the same rights to parental responsibility after fertility
treatment as married couples.
Family law advice from the Co-operative Legal Services
Our expert team
is here to provide free family law advice over the
telephone, on a range of issues including parental responsibility. Our service
is confidential and with no obligation. We will explain your options and put
you in touch with specialist organisations if necessary.