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If you are a  step-parent you may wish to consider whether it would be appropriate to acquire parental responsibility for your step-child or step-children.


What is parental responsibility?

“Parental responsibility” is the legal right and duty of a parent for a child. A child’s biological mother will acquire parental responsibility automatically upon a child’s birth with the other parent acquiring parental responsibility if they are married to or are in a civil partnership with the mother at the time of birth, or their name is on the child’s birth certificate.


Your rights as a step-parent

As a step-parent you will not automatically have parental responsibility. You may, however, need to make decisions in respect of a child, either on a day to day basis or in an emergency.


This will especially be the case if you are living with the child for some or all of the time. You can acquire parental responsibility either:

  1. By entering into a parental responsibility agreement, or
  2. Through a court order


These methods are considered an alternative to adoption, which would remove the parental responsibility of another parent. It therefore has the advantage of allowing the child to maintain legal links with the other birth parent.


A parental responsibility agreement

In order to enter into a parental responsibility agreement, you must have the consent of everyone with parental responsibility for the child. For example, if there are two parents with parental responsibility, then the agreement will be between three people, the child’s parents and the step-parent. If, however, there is only one parent with parental responsibility, then the agreement will be just between the step-parent and the parent with parental responsibility.


You will need to send the following to your local court:


  1. The step-parent, Parental Responsibility Form (Form C (PRA2)) this form can be found here: C(PRA2) – Step-Parent Parental Responsibility Agreement (
  2. Evidence of a parents, parental responsibility, for example, a marriage certificate or birth certificate
  3. Evidence of your relationship to the parent, for example, a marriage or civil partnership certificate.


 A parental responsibility order

You can also make an application to the court for a parental responsibility order. To do so, you must be married to or in a civil partnership with a parent who has parental responsibility for the child. When making a decision as to whether to grant the order, the court will consider the child’s welfare and the welfare checklist, as set out in the Children Act 1989 s1(3).


It is important to note that once a step-parent is divorced from the parent they will no longer be able to apply for, or be granted, a parental responsibility order. If, however, an order or agreement is already in place and you are subsequently divorced, the parental responsibility order or agreement will remain effective.


As a step-parents you may also acquire parental responsibility through a Child Arrangements order or through a Special Guardianship order. These orders can be made in respect of any family member, relative or friend that wishes to care for a child. They will have to demonstrate to the court that it is in the child’s best interests to do so.


A parental responsibility order or agreement will come to an end either:

  1. Automatically when a child reaches the age of 18, or
  2. By further order of the court, or
  3. Upon the child being adopted.


Should you require legal advice in respect of acquiring parental responsibility for a child you are caring for, please do get in touch with one of our experts.


Lyons Davidson solicitors have a dedicated team specialising in Family Law and would be able to advise you on the options that are available to you.  Please contact us on 0344 251 0070. You can also email us at [email protected]