• Emily Pringle

What does separating mean for your children, and the decisions you make for them?

Updated: Nov 7, 2019

It’s not as straight forward as the resident parent decides everything, and takes full control. As much as sometimes its what the woman would do, its not necessarily right for the children. The same for dad’s if that situation is yours.

This is about the children, not you and your ex.

Although it’s hard, as you may be in a battle with your ex, your child has the right to both parents making decisions that are best for them.

This is where Parental Responsibility comes in, and it’s important to understand this.

When certain decisions have to be taken about a child, all those with Parental Responsibility for the child are allowed to have a say in that decision. The decision will have to be about the upbringing of the child. Day to day decisions should be taken by the resident parent or the person with whom the child lives without interference from other Parental Responsibility holders. 

In practical terms Parental Responsibility means the power to make important decisions in  relation to a child. This can include:

• determining the child’s education and where the child goes to school;

• choosing, registering or changing the child’s name;

• appointing a child’s guardian in the event of the death of a parent;

• consenting to a child’s operation or certain medical treatment;

• accessing a child’s medical records;

• consenting to taking the child abroad for holidays or extended stays;

• representing the child in legal proceedings;

• determining the religion the child should be brought up with. Where there is a mixed cultural background this should include exposure to the religions of all those with Parental Responsibility, until the child can reach an age where he/she can make their own decision on this.

Parental Responsibility does not mean that a parent has the automatic right to:

• contact with a child – this is the child’s right and not the right of the person with Parental Responsibility; or

• know the whereabouts of other people with Parental Responsibility or where the child is living. In practice, this means that if the child lives with one parent the other parent does not have an automatic right to know the address  of that parent. The parent can apply to the court for this to disclosed and it may be disclosed if it is in the best interests of the child. 

Who has Parental Responsibility?

• Mothers automatically have Parental Responsibility and will not lose it if divorced.

• Married fathers automatically have Parental Responsibility and will not lose it if divorced.

• Unmarried fathers do not automatically have Parental Responsibility (see below).

• Step-fathers and Step-mothers do not automatically have Parental Responsibility.

• Grandparents do not automatically have Parental Responsibility. 

How can unmarried fathers obtain Parental Responsibility?

An unmarried father can obtain Parental Responsibility by:

• marrying the mother;

• having his name registered or re-registered on the birth certificate if his name is not already registered;*

• entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother;

• obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order from the court;

• having obtained a Residence Order prior to 22/4/2014;

• being named as the resident parent under a Child Arrangements Order;

• becoming the child’s guardian on the mother’s death.

* The law has changed so that unmarried fathers who registered or re-registered their name on their child’s birth certificate after 1st December 2003 will have Parental Responsibility for their child.


• if an unmarried father has a child after 1st December 2003 and he is registered on the birth certificate, he WILL have Parental Responsibility.

• if a child’s birth was registered before 1st December 2003 and the father was not named on the birth certificate, the birth can be re-registered to include the father’s name – the father WILL then have Parental Responsibility.**

• if a child’s birth was registered before 1st December 2003 and includes the name of the unmarried father, the father WILL NOT have Parental Responsibility (unless obtained by other means).

It’s important to be clear on all of the above. Children often get caught up in divorce or separation, and they shouldn’t. If you are clear on Parental Responsibility it can take some of the noise away.

For more information please email me on, or call me on 07814009408