Since 30 December 2005 a step-parent who is married to or the civil partner of a parent of a child who has parental responsibility may apply for an order for parental responsibility or may enter into a parental responsibility agreement.
Parental responsibility agreement
Step-parents may acquire parental responsibility for their step-child by entering into a parental responsibility agreement.
In relation to a parental responsibility agreement:
- where both of the child’s parents have parental responsibility, the agreement must be between the step-parent and the child’s mother and father
- where only the mother has parental responsibility, the agreement must be with her
- the parties must complete a Step-parent Parental Responsibility Form (Form C(PRA2))
- parents must produce documentary evidence of their parental responsibility: in the case of the mother the birth certificate and in the case of the father a marriage certificate or the birth certificate if he is registered as the father or a parental responsibility agreement or an order
- a step-parent must produce either a marriage certificate or a certificate of civil partnership
- evidence of identity of the parties is also required
Parental responsibility order
A step-parent who is married to or the civil partner of a parent of a child who has parental responsibility may apply to the court for an order granting parental responsibility. In considering the application, the court:
- will have regard to the child’s welfare as its paramount consideration
- will have regard to the no order principle
- is not under an obligation to consider the welfare checklist, but may have regard to it
Note that in order to apply for a parental responsibility order the step-parent must still be married to the other parent, once a step-parent is divorced from the parent of the child they can no longer apply for or be granted parental responsibility.
Duration of orders and agreements
A parental responsibility order or agreement:
- automatically ends when a child reaches 18
- ends upon the making of a parental order
- ends upon the child being adopted
- remains effective even if the couple subsequently separate or divorce or there is an order for dissolution of the civil partnership
- can be brought to an end by a court order on an application by any person with parental responsibility or, with leave, by the child
Non-parents who have responsibility by reason of a child arrangements order (CAO) and local authorities that have responsibility by reason of a care order only have responsibility for the duration of the order.
Child arrangements orders
Unlike the position of an unmarried father, if a CAO is made in which the step-parent is named as a person with whom the child is to live (formerly a residence order) there is no provision for the automatic making of a separate parental responsibility order. Instead, if a step-parent is named in a CAO as the person with whom the child is to live then they will be granted parental responsibility only for as long as the CAO remains in force so far as providing for the child to live with that person, and parental responsibility will cease upon the ending of that provision of the CAO. For this reason step-parents might well be advised when applying for a CAO to also seek a parental responsibility order.
Where the court makes a CAO and a person who is not a parent or guardian of the child concerned (which includes step-parents) is named in the order as a person with whom the child is to spend time or otherwise have contact with but that person is not named as a person with whom the child is to live (formerly a contact order) the court may provide in the order for the person to have parental responsibility for the child while that part of the CAO continues.
A step-parent may acquire parental responsibility by becoming a special guardian, although this will enable the step-parent to exercise parental responsibility to the exclusion of all other parents with parental responsibility and so would not usually be appropriate in a family involving a step-parent living with a natural parent with parental responsibility.
A step-parent may apply to adopt their step-child and then both they and the other parent will have full parental responsibility for the child
Parental responsibility for others
Parental responsibility can be acquired by individuals who are not either parents or step-parents by:
- becoming a child’s guardian—after being formally appointed by either parent with parental responsibility or a guardian or by the court; such an appointment will only take effect after the death of any parent or parents with parental responsibility
- being appointed as a special guardian—they will have parental responsibility while the order lasts; it can be exercised to the exclusion of anyone else apart from another special guardian; they can appoint a guardian and consent or withhold consent to adoption (but not to the exclusion of the parents’ rights)
- obtaining a CAO in which they are named as a person with whom the child is to live—they have parental responsibility while the order remains in force so far as providing for the child to live with that person
- obtaining a CAO in which they are named as a person with whom the child is to spend time or otherwise have contact with but they are not named as the person with whom the child is to live—in those circumstances the court may provide in the order for the person to have parental responsibility for the child while the provisions in the order continue to be met in the person’s case
- acquiring an emergency protection order—which grants limited parental responsibility while the order remains in force
Duration of parental responsibility
Parental responsibility ends:
- when the child reaches 18
- on the death of the child
- on the making of a parental order or adoption order when parental responsibility is transferred to the person in whose favour the order is made
- in the case of non-parents who have parental responsibility, as a result of a CAO when the provisions in the order that relate to that person come to an end
- in the case of local authorities that have parental responsibility, as a consequence of an emergency protection order when that order ends
Get in Touch
If you would like advice on family matters or any other issues, please contact us to arrange a telephone/video appointment. You can call us on 01323 727321 to arrange an appointment or please fill in the form below and someone will get in touch.
Please note the above is for information purposes only and is intended to be a short summary. It should not be treated as a comprehensive guide and should not be acted on without qualified legal advice.