a) Where the parents are male and female
If the parents are unmarried, the mother automatically has parental responsibility. If the parents are married at the time of the child’s birth or if they subsequently marry then the father also has parental responsibility. After divorce, they both still retain parental responsibility.
The unmarried father has parental responsibility if his name was entered onto the birth certificate at the time of registration provided that the birth was registered in the UK and registration took place after 1st December 2003.
If the birth was re-registered and his name was added by consent he will acquire parental responsibility. However, he will not acquire parental responsibility if the birth was re-registered as a result of obtaining a declaration of parentage from the Court.
An unmarried father can also acquire parental responsibility by entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother (there are strict procedures to follow to complete this); by marrying the mother; or by applying to the Court for parental responsibility.
In considering whether to grant that application the Court will look at his commitment, attachment to the child and reasons for applying. Unless he is thought to be a risk to the child or the mother the application is usually successful.
b) Same-sex female parents
The law relating to acquisition of parental responsibility here only applies where the child is conceived by artificial insemination.
Upon birth, the woman who has carried the child has parental responsibility.
i) If the parents were in a civil partnership or marriage at the time of conception then the other female becomes the other legal parent and has parental responsibility, unless they did not consent to the treatment. The natural father has no rights.
ii) If the parents were not in a civil partnership or marriage at the time of conception, the other female partner only becomes the other parent, if the treatment took place at a UK licensed clinic and they both sign parenthood election forms. She needs to add her name to the birth certificate to acquire parental responsibility (in the same way as an unmarried father above). Alternatively she can acquire parental responsibility if they both sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement (on the prescribed form) or by an Order of the Court. In this situation, if the treatment was not at a licensed clinic, the birth father retains his rights and the other female parent does not acquire parental responsibility.
c) Same-sex male parents
Where the child is carried by a surrogate, the intended parents will need to apply for a parental order within 6 months of the child’s birth. That will give them both parental responsibility and the natural mother’s rights will cease.
A civil partner or step-parent can acquire parental responsibility by entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the consent of all the natural parents or by order of the Court.
It is also possible to acquire parental responsibility if you have a Child Arrangements Order confirming that a child lives with you or if the Court has given you parental responsibility within the order. You would have parental responsibility for the duration of the order.
Finally, a parental order made after surrogacy automatically confers parental responsibility on the parents.