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Set out below are the circumstances in which an individual has, or may acquire, parental responsibility.
A mother always has parental responsibility (unless she has subsequently lost it through adoption or through a parental order under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (HFEA) 1990).
The child’s father has parental responsibility for a child if he was married to the child’s mother at the time of the child’s birth. Similarly, the mother’s civil partner will (subject to the conditions section 42 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (HFEA) 2008) have parental responsibility.
An unmarried father may take steps to acquire parental responsibility. He will have parental responsibility automatically if he registered the birth with the mother on or after 1 December 2003. Alternatively, he may acquire parental responsibility by: applying to the court for a parental responsibility order; making a parental responsibility agreement with the child’s mother; or being appointed guardian (see below). Similar provisions apply to second female parents (who meet the conditions in section 43 of the HFEA 2008).
A step-parent may acquire parental responsibility for a child if he or she is married to, or the civil partner of, a person with parental responsibility for the child, either by agreement with the parent (and with any other person with parental responsibility), by court order, or through adoption.
A special guardian has parental responsibility for the child. Subject to any other orders, a special guardianship order allows the special guardian to exercise parental responsibility to the exclusion of others with parental responsibility (except another special guardian).
A person named in a child arrangements order as a person with whom a child lives has parental responsibility.*
A guardian who is appointed for a child under section 5 of the Act has parental responsibility on the death of the child’s parent(s) or the person named in a child arrangements order as the person with whom a child is to live.
A local authority acquires parental responsibility for a child if a care order is in place.
* Courts also have the power to award parental responsibility to a person named in a child arrangements order as a person with whom a child spends time or otherwise has contact.
[SOURCE: Statutory guidance on court orders and pre-proceedings for local authorities, Department for Education. April 2014]