It is generally accepted that parents always want the best for their child, isn’t it?  It’s a simple fact of parenting – that you’re going to need to support your child.  In the UK, parental responsibilities are governed by the same pieces of legislation which define their and their children’s rights: namely, the Children and Young Persons Act (1933) and the Children Act (1989). By law,  ‘parental responsibility’ is owed by:

  • The biological mother of a child
  • The biological father of the child (if married to the mother at the time of conception or birth, or married to the mother after the birth of the child). Since 2003 (in England and Wales), the law also establishes parental responsibility for fathers who have registered the birth of the baby with the mother.
  • Adoptive parents once the adoption order is made.
  • Unmarried fathers with children born prior to December 1, 2003 (in England and Wales), can obtain parental responsibility by obtaining the mother’s agreement or by applying for a court order. In Scotland, a similar law applies to fathers of children born on or after May 4, 2006, and in Northern Ireland to those born on or after April 15, 2002.

Parental responsibility in the UK is likewise covered by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child, which deems that a child has the right to:

  • Provision (including an education, health care, an adequate standard of living, play, family life and alternative care if necessary). In terms of education, parents are responsible for ensuring that their child obtains a full-time education, though this does not necessarily mean going to school. Homeschooling is a preferred option for many families in the UK.  Parents need to ensure that their children receive a full-time education as of the age of five and until the child is 16.
  • Protection (from abuse, exploitation of any kind, neglect, discrimination, etc.)
  • Personal Freedom and Decision-Making (children have  a right to privacy, and to have their own opinions, beliefs and religion. They also have a right for their views to be listened to and valued).

Additional parental responsibilities include:

  • Naming a child/agreeing to a name change.
  • Providing a home for a child.
  • Disciplining a child without resorting to any kind of abuse.
  • Being responsible for a child’s belongings.
  • Applying for a passport for a child if travelling.
  • Supervising and accompanying a child until parents feel confident that the child is mature enough to be left alone; parents continue to have responsibility in this area until the child is aged 16.
  • Ensuring that children only miss school for legitimate reasons.
  • Ensuring that children travel safely. If travelling by car, parents need to make sure that children under 14 are wearing a seatbelt. If under three, the child must use a child restraint and from 3 to 12 (or when the child reaches 135cm, whichever is first), the child needs to seat in an appropriate child’s seat or booster seat. There are very limited exceptions to this rule (for instance, when the child is travelling in the back seat of a taxi). Children aged 12 or 13 and over, meanwhile must use an adult seatbelt if a child restraint is unavailable.
  • Attending Parenting Order classes if the parent has been taken to court for failing to make their child attend school, if their child has committed an offence, the child has been expelled from school for bad behaviour, etc.
  • Ensuring that anyone looking after their child in their absence is a registered child minder (unless the person is related to the children).
  • In the case of divorce/dissolution of marriage, the non-resident parent has a responsibility to maintain the children. The responsibility is the same for unmarried, non-resident parents.

It seems like quite a long list, but many of these things are purely common sense.  Are there any things in our list that surprise you?  Let us know.

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