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What is parental responsibility?

October 18, 2021

Parental responsibility (“PR”) is defined in section 3(1) of the Children Act 1989 as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child, and his property”.

If you are a mother, you automatically have PR for your child from birth. If you are a father, you will have PR for your child if you are married to the child’s mother, or if you are unmarried, you are listed on the birth certificate for your child after 1 December 2003. If you are a father who is not named on your child’s birth certificate, you can agree a PR agreement with the child’s mother or apply to the court for a PR order.

The case of FC vs MC [2021] EWHC 154 (Fam), is an interesting one which considers the importance of PR being granted in respect of a child.

“FC” and “MC” were a same-sex female couple who conceived a child, “D”, as a result of artificial insemination at home and both attended all antenatal appointments. MC gave birth to D in January 2016, and she therefore automatically had PR for him. As the artificial insemination did not take place at a licenced fertility clinic and FC and MC were not married or in a civil partnership, FC could not be named on D’s birth certificate as she was not a legal parent. However, FC was D’s main carer whilst MC was a full-time student, changed her surname to be the same as that of D and MC, D called her “Mummy”, and she spent time with D until she and MC separated in June 2019.

FC applied to the court for a child arrangements order for D to spend time with her, and a PR order which would mean she had shared PR for D whilst he was a child, although she would not be a full legal parent. MC opposed the applications on the basis that she was D’s primary parent, could not see the benefit of FC having PR for D, and was worried about FC’s parenting style and her commitment to D.

The court had to decide whether it was in D’s best interests for FC to have shared PR for him. The court found this was the case as FC had been heavily involved in his life and had shown commitment to D, and he already viewed her as a parent. The court therefore made a PR order and a shared care/lives with order, which would mean that D would split his time living with FC and MC separately.

Wallace Robinson & Morgan Limited are based in Solihull and Dorridge and serve clients across Birmingham and the West Midlands, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and further afield. Our team of Family Lawyers are happy to help if you would like advice about the arrangements for your children following divorce, dissolution of your civil partnership, or separation.

If you would like to discuss your matter, please call 0121 705 7571 and ask to speak to a member of the Family law team or email us at

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