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How to make a Parental responsibility agreement

For use in England and Wales only.

Use a parental responsibility agreement to agree and set out who has parental responsibility for a child.

Recently reviewed by Adnan Mahmood, Solicitor and Head of Legal, UK. 

This parental responsibility agreement was last reviewed on 22 March 2022.

Parental responsibility (as defined in the Children Act 1989) means the legal rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority a parent has for a child. A parent with parental responsibility has the right to make decisions about the child's upbringing and their care.

A parental responsibility agreement is an agreement made between the mother, or parent with parental responsibility, and the individual who wants to obtain parental responsibility. Both parents will need to agree to this. The parental responsibility agreement must be signed and witnessed by a justices' clerk, or court officer and it must be filed at the Principal Registry of the Family Division. The agreement must be filed, otherwise, it won't be legally binding.

Make sure you follow a proper process when, as a father, you want parental responsibility for your child along with the mother with this parental responsibility agreement. Obtaining parental responsibility means that you will be involved in decision-making and will be kept up to date about the child's well-being. This parental responsibility agreement covers your ability to make decisions for your child with regards to such matters as schooling, appropriate medical treatment, discipline and where your child should live.

Use this parental responsibility agreement or custody agreement:

  • if you are a father and you don't have parental responsibility for your child (eg you were not married to the child's mother when the child was born or your name is not on the birth certificate), and
  • you want parental responsibility too, and
  • the child's mother agrees

This parental responsibility agreement:

  • allows you as the father to have parental responsibility along with the mother
  • allows you to make such decisions as to where the child will go to school or what medical treatment is appropriate
  • makes you responsible for providing the child with a home and stating where that should be
  • makes you responsible for maintaining, protecting and disciplining your child
  • doesn't mean that you have to live with the child or even have contact with them
  • does not itself create any financial responsibility (but as the father you have financial responsibility as a matter of law)

You need a parental responsibility agreement if as a father you want to have a formal agreement in place to set out that you have parental responsibility along with the mother.

Principal Registry of the Family Division

First Avenue House

42-49 High Holborn



The most important roles are to provide a home for the child and protect and maintain the child. However, some other roles include:

  • deciding where a child lives

  • choosing or agreeing to a child's medical treatment

  • choosing and providing for the child's education

  • choosing which, if any, religion a child follows

  • giving consent for a child to leave the country, whether for a holiday or permanently

Parental responsibility doesn't affect the duty a parent has to maintain their child financially as all parents have this duty, irrespective of whether they have parental responsibility or not.

The birth mother will automatically have parental responsibility for her child.

The father usually has parental responsibility in these circumstances:

  • if he was married to the child's mother at the time of birth, or

  • if he is not married to the mother, then by jointly registering the birth of the child with the mother. This must have taken place on or after 1 December 2003.

Same-sex civil partners will both have parental responsibility if they were civil partners at the time of the treatment eg donor insemination or fertility treatment.

Biological fathers can get parental responsibility if they weren't married to the mother at the time of the child's birth. Same-sex partners who aren't in a civil partnership can also get parental responsibility by applying for parental responsibility if a parental agreement was made or by becoming a civil partner of the other parent and making a parental responsibility agreement.

You can acquire parental responsibility if you create a parental responsibility agreement with the other parent. It must be signed and witnessed.

If parents can't reach an agreement on whether the other parent should have parental responsibility, the parent can apply to the court for an order. The court will decide if it's in the best interests of the child for the parent to have parental responsibility. If the court grants parental responsibility, they will grant a Parental Responsibility Order.

A parental responsibility agreement can only end in these circumstances:

  • on the child's 18th birthday
  • by an order of the court made on the application of any person who has parental responsibility for the child
  • by an order of the court made on the application of the child with permission from the court

If parents with parental responsibility can't agree on a decision concerning the upbringing of their child, they could use family mediation. If an agreement can't be reached then either person can apply for a Specific Issue Order or a Prohibited Steps Order, although the parent doesn't need to have parental responsibility in order to do this. The court will make a decision based on what's in the best interests of the child.

Ask a lawyer where:

  • the mother of the child does not agree to your having parental responsibility
  • you are a step-father or same-sex parent

This parental responsibility agreement is governed by the law of England and Wales.