Termination Of Parental Responsibility

Termination Of Parental Responsibility

In her latest Timms blog, Family Care Solicitor Melissa Knight discusses the termination of parental responsibility…

Parental Responsibility

A child’s mother automatically has parental responsibility for their child. The position is, however, different for a child’s father. If a child’s parents are married at the time of birth, then a father will automatically acquire parental responsibility. If they are unmarried when the child is born, then the father can still acquire it through different channels. These channels include a parental responsibility agreement, a parental responsibility order or if the child was born on or after 1st December 2003 then registering the child’s father on the birth certificate automatically grants the father parental responsibility. In addition, civil partners can be registered as the child’s legal parent.

Other family members may also acquire parental responsibility via a child arrangements order, parental responsibility order, parental responsibility agreement or special guardianship order.

Parental responsibility enables the holder to be able to make important decisions about the child in question including decisions such as which school the child should attend, where the child lives, whether they should undergo medical treatment and whether the child should go on holiday abroad. If more than one person has parental responsibility for a child, then decisions should be made about that child jointly.

Terminating Parental Responsibility

Terminating somebody’s parental responsibility  is viewed by the Court as a very serious step and the Court will only grant such an order in extreme circumstances such as a parent having been convicted of sexual abuse of children, extreme violence or there is a high risk of the child being radicalised. The Judge making the decision will consider the individual circumstances of the case. There are a limited number of cases where the Court have granted an order to terminate responsibility because of the draconian nature of the order. The Court must ensure that the child’s welfare is the paramount consideration when reaching any decision and will consider whether such an order is necessary to protect the child from significant harm, which can include both physical and emotional harm.

The Difference Between Married And Unmarried Fathers

Unusually, despite consideration by the European Courts, the law is different for married and unmarried fathers and some argue that it is unfair that there should be any distinction based on marriage alone. In addition, the Court does not have the power to terminate a mother’s parental responsibility which may be viewed by some as discriminatory.

The Court can terminate an unmarried father’s parental responsibility if this has been acquired by agreement, order, or registration. However, if a father has acquired his parental responsibility by marrying the child’s mother either before or after the child is born then the Court does not have the legal powers to terminate a father’s parental responsibility as there is nothing in the current English Law which grants the Court the jurisdiction to do so.  In these situations, an application can be made instead to restrict a married father’s parental responsibility by making an application for a Prohibited Steps Order under section 8 Children Act 1989. Whilst this order does not completely deny the Father of his parental responsibility, it can set out specific restrictions to reduce his involvement and decision-making in the child’s life. Examples of such restrictions include:

  1. Father not to have any contact with the child
  2. Father not to be sent any information in respect of the child such as from the child’s school or GP
  3. Father cannot remove the child from the care of their Mother

The only way that a Court can fully terminate the parental responsibility of a child’s mother or a married father is if the child is adopted by another family.

How Can Timms Help?

If you have any questions about the content of this blog or require any advice then do not hesitate to contact me on m.knight@timms-law.com or 01283 561531. Alternatively, you can visit the Family Law page of our website here.


Melissa Knight Photo

Melissa Knight


May 2022

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