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Parental Responsibility for Step-Parents and Others

Step-parents

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:

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: 

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:

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.

Special guardianship

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.

Adoption

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:

Duration of parental responsibility

Parental responsibility ends:

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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.