Parental Responsibility (PR) is the legal name for the rights and responsibilities that most parents have in relation to a child. The exercise of PR is generally just part of normal parenting. However, when parents separate the having and exercising of PR becomes quite significant.
All mothers automatically have PR when they have a child. Fathers don’t always have PR, but they will acquire it in certain circumstances:
1. By being married to the mother;
2. If the child is born after December 2003, by being registered as the father on the birth certificate so long as they were present when the birth was registered;
3. By entering into a PR Agreement with the mother; or
4. By having a Court Order
Anyone with PR is expected to take care of the child’s physical and emotional needs. When there are important decisions to be made about things like education, healthcare and treatment or changing a name, then everyone with PR should be kept involved.
When parents don’t agree on something like what school the child should go to, then there are various ways that they can try to resolve the dispute. They can have discussions ‘over the kitchen table’, attend a family mediation service or negotiate through solicitors. The last resort is to make an Application to Court. This starts off a process where the Court will try to help the parents reach agreement. If this is not possible then a Judge or panel of Magistrates will make a decision after a contested final hearing.