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Does a mother have more rights than a father?

What rights and responsibilities do parents have in relation to their child?

All mothers and most fathers have legal rights and responsibilities as a parent – this is called ‘parental responsibility’.

If you are a parent with parental responsibility, you should provide a home for your child and should maintain and protect them.

Having parental responsibility also means you are responsible for disciplining your child, choosing and providing for your child’s education, agreeing to your child’s medical treatment, naming the child and agreeing to any change of name and looking after your child’s property.

What are my legal rights when I have parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility provides legal rights too; it means those with who have it have the legal right to make important decisions. These decisions include:

  • Naming your child and changing their name
  • Consent to medical treatment
  • Choosing where your child goes to School
  • Changing your child’s School
  • Applying for passports
  • Deciding Religious upbringing
  • Deciding where the child should live e.g. moving abroad
  • Taking a child abroad for a holiday.

If both parents have parental responsibility, it is not necessary for both parents to agree on every day to day decision. If the decisions are major life changing decisions, mainly those included in the list above, then it is necessary for both parents to agree.

Where both parents have it, neither of them has more say than the other when it comes to important decisions, so the mother does not have more say than the father.

A parent must make sure their child is financially supported, whether or not they officially have this responsibility.

How do I obtain parental responsibility?

Mothers automatically obtain parental responsibility as soon as a child is born. For some fathers, it will be automatic, such as if they are married to the mother at the time of the birth or named as the father on the birth certificate. If both the mother and father have parental responsibility, their legal rights and responsibilities are equal unless the court has made an order restricting a parent’s parental responsibility in some way.

Fathers who are not married to the Mother or named on the birth certificate do not automatically have parental responsibility. This means their consent is not needed for major decisions. In this sense, the mother will have more rights over the father. However, it is good practice to communicate in advance about any significant changes in a child’s life, such as a change of name, even if the other parent doesn’t have parental responsibility.

A father with no parental responsibility can obtain it in the following ways:

  1. Entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother
  2. Applying to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order
  3. Being named as the resident parent under a Child Arrangements Order.

A step-parent can obtain it too, but this can only be done with a Parental Responsibility Agreement signed by both parents.

What happens if you have Parental Responsibility, but both parents cannot agree on a major decision?

If parents cannot agree on decisions, they can attend family mediation. At David Gray Solicitors LLP, we have mediation services available with highly experienced mediators. If you wish to learn more about mediation please visit our mediation page.

If you are not able to reach agreement outside of court, you can make a Private Law application to Court for a Specific Issue Order or a Prohibited Steps Order. A Specific Issue Order can be applied for where one parent wishes to take a step and the other parent doesn’t agree, for example a vaccination, or a change of school. A Prohibited Steps Order can stop the one parent from taking a step which is not agreed by the other parent. If we have not been the mediator in your case, we can advise you about a court application. At David Gray Solicitors LLP, we have highly experienced Solicitors who are able to represent and advise you in Private Law applications to the Court.

Contact Us

If you wish to speak with us about a family law matter, please contact or call 0191 232 9547 who will advise you on the best way forward.

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