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No, parental responsibility is not the same as child custody. Generally speaking, parental responsibility refers to a parent’s duties towards their child, while ‘custody’ (or Child Arrangements) focuses on a parent’s rights over their child, including where they’ll live and who has contact.

What is Parental Responsibility

Parental Responsibility is where a parent has a legal duty and responsibility for a child.

This includes caring for them and making decisions about their upbringing, health and educational needs. 

While all mothers automatically have parental responsibility, not all fathers do. Only a father who is married to the mother at the time of birth or is named on the birth certificate has legal parental responsibility.
In more complex cases relating to fathers’ rights, it might be necessary to enter into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother or apply for a Parental Responsibility Order from the court.

Parental Responsibility Agreement

If you’re a father who is not named on the birth certificate or was not married to the mother when the child was born, or a step-parent or grandparent looking to gain parental responsibility, you can enter into a ‘Parental Responsibility Agreement’.

While certain criteria must be met depending on your circumstances, it’s generally a process that avoids involving the court.

Parental Responsibility Order

In the event that a co-parent doesn’t want to agree to share Parental Responsibility, you can apply to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order. Bear in mind, however, the court does hold the right to reject the application if they believe it is what’s in the child’s best interest.

Child Arrangement Order

In contrast, child custody (now referred to as Child Arrangements) is the living arrangements of the child including who they have contact with, where they go to school, and where they spend their time.

Those with parental responsibility are entitled to apply for child custody or child arrangements. But this does not mean that the court will allow the child to have contact with a parent who has parental responsibility. It is very much dependent on the situation and what is in the best interests of the child.

How GloverPriest Can Help

At GloverPriest, we understand that each situation is sensitive and that everyone’s circumstances are different. This is why we tailor our service to find the best outcome for your situation. 

Our expert Family Law Solicitors have years of experience in helping parents reach Parental Responsibility Agreements, helping to acquire Parental Responsibility Orders and gaining Child Arrangement Orders.

Get in touch with our team of experts today.


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At GloverPriest, we understand navigating the law can be a difficult task to take on alone. That’s why we created this comprehensive guide to help promote information for everyone to use.

If you’re looking to speak to a solicitor, please call us from the number below. Alternatively, you can fill out our online form and we’ll be right with you.

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