Parental responsibility is defined in the Children Act 1989 as ‘all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property’.
Cases decided by the courts have given us some idea of what this means.
• making choices about a child’s religion;
• making choices about a child’s education;
• deciding what name a child should be known by;
• making decisions about a child’s medical treatment (including blood tests);
• asking for copies of records about the child’s medical treatment and education;
• disciplining the child;
• deciding where a child should live and who a child should spend time with;
• deciding whether a child should be able to go out of the country, perhaps for a holiday;
• looking after the child generally;
• deciding whether any information about the child should be made public;
• making decisions about what should happen to any property belonging to the child.
• deciding whether someone else should look after a child or make decisions about them;
• representing the child in legal proceedings;
• making other slightly less usual decisions about a child such as whether a sixteen year old should be allowed to get married, making arrangements for a child’s funeral, deciding whether a child should be adopted.
It also carries with it the automatic entitlement to make certain applications to the court (for example for contact or residence) to be a respondent to care proceedings. However, even without PR, an unmarried father is entitled to reasonable contact to a child in care and is able to make an application to the court for permission to apply for orders or to join in care proceedings.