0800 652 3371

Legal Advice for Obtaining or Removing Parental Rights and Responsibilities


Anyone making important decisions on behalf of or in relation to a child such as where they should live or go to school must have parental responsibility.

In most situations, the birth or adoptive parents hold legal responsibility for their child but not everyone’s circumstances are as straight forward.

At Lanyon Bowdler, we can help you with all matters relating to parental responsibility. Whether you are seeking to acquire this status with regard to a stepchild or another relative, or whether you are seeking to remove parental responsibility, our specialist family law solicitors have the experience and expertise to guide you through the process.

What is parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility is simply the legal rights, duties and obligations that parents have towards their children.

This means providing a safe home, meeting their children’s needs, ensuring proper arrangements for their care and education and making key decisions on their behalf such as:

  • Their name
  • Where they will go school
  • The medical treatment they need
  • Consenting to school and extra-curricular activities
  • Travelling abroad
  • Their religion, while also ensuring they are aware of the religious cultures and backgrounds of all those with parental responsibility

All biological mothers automatically have parental responsibility for their children and in most cases, fathers do as well as long as they are either married to the child’s mother or are named on the child’s birth certificate.

Others who may have parental responsibility for a child include anyone with a Parental Responsibility Order for example:

  • A stepparent
  • Parents through surrogacy
  • Anyone who has been granted a Live With (Residence Order)

How to obtain parental responsibility

If you are not automatically entitled to parental responsibility for a child you have several options:

Parental Responsibility Agreement

This is the most straightforward way of obtaining parental responsibility as it doesn’t require applying for a court order. As long as the agreement has the consent of everyone who already has parental responsibility, an official document will simply need to be signed by everyone at the court. This will then be registered and become legally binding, remaining in place until the child turns 18.

Parental Responsibility Order

If you wish to obtain parental responsibility for a child but haven’t got the consent of all those who already have it, you can apply for a court order. To be eligible, you must be connected to the child, as the father, a stepparent or second female parent, for example.

The court will make a decision based on the child’s best interests and will take into consideration the child’s relationship with the applicant, their level of attachment and the reasons for the application.

How to remove parental responsibility

Unless a child is adopted, parental responsibility cannot be removed from a biological mother and it is extremely rare for it to be removed from a father. The circumstances would need to be exceptional and the court will always prioritise mediation as a way of resolving any issues in the best interests of the child concerned.

Rare but possible justifiable reasons for removing parental responsibility include:

  • Abusive behaviour
  • Withholding consent for medical treatment
  • Adoption

A court will not remove a father’s parental responsibility for any of the following reasons:

  • He doesn’t want contact with his child
  • His child doesn’t want contact with him
  • He won’t pay child maintenance
  • He isn’t involved in his child’s life

Where a court believes a father is having a negative impact on his child, they can restrict the father’s involvement by issuing either a Child Arrangements Order or a Prohibited Steps Order to protect the child and limit the role their father has in their life.

What if those with parental responsibility can’t agree?

For the most part, decisions can be taken for a child by just one person who has parental responsibility, for example consenting to a school trip.

In terms of major decisions such as medical treatment or if one parent wants to move abroad or relocate with their child, where parents cannot agree either one of them can apply to the court for a Specific Issue Order or a Prohibited Steps Order.

Specific Issue Order

The court will grant an order to address one particular issue that a child’s parents cannot agree on. The court will look at the evidence and will make a decision based on the best outcome for the child.

Prohibited Steps Order

If the court believes an action taken by a parent is going to be harmful to a child, such as being removed from the other parent to live abroad, then they can issue a Prohibited Steps Order to prevent the action from being taken. The court must be certain that making the order is better for the child than not making one at all.

In all circumstances, you will first be asked to engage in mediation to see whether it is possible for all those with parental responsibility to come to an agreement, without the need for court action, which can be both stressful and costly. We are renowned for our expertise in collaborative law and can help you with the negotiations at this stage.

Why we care

At Lanyon Bowdler, we are very much a family orientated team and understand the issues affecting families on a day-to-day basis. We are fully committed to achieving the very best results for you, your family and your children to bring you the stability and security that all families need. We will work tirelessly to ensure everything runs smoothly and will combine our legal expertise with our passion for helping families to achieve the right outcome as quickly as possible.

What we do

Our legal specialists help families resolve questions surrounding parental responsibility and regularly help clients to find amicable solutions away from the courts. At Lanyon Bowdler, we excel in collaborative law and will always strive to help find an agreement through discussion and dialogue with the other parties involved to bring about a swift conclusion to your case. Where this is not possible, we can provide you with the highest standard of court representation, guiding you skilfully through the legal proceedings and providing clarity on what can be a difficult and confusing process.

Our preparation for any court hearings will be exhaustive and it is our keen eye for detail which makes us so effective when it comes to getting results. We are a highly motivated team, who genuinely care and are driven by our desire to help you and your family. We have a reputation for delivering outstanding customer services and are recommended by clients and industry representatives alike.

Lanyon Bowdler is listed in the 2020 edition of The Legal 500, an independent, national guide of recommended law firms and is also recognised by Chambers UK in its rankings of leading solicitors. We are incredibly proud that our family law team includes members of the Law Society Family Panel as well as accredited specialists of Resolution, a national organisation of family lawyers. We are justifiably known as leaders in the field of family law and this combined with our care and understanding makes us the law firm of choice when it comes to all aspects of child and family law.

How much will it cost?

Legal costs are a common concern among many clients who come to us but we believe that budget shouldn’t be a barrier to the legal support you and your family deserve. We therefore offer a number of different flexible pricing plans including fixed fee and pay as you go arrangements to suit your particular circumstances and are happy to sit down and discuss the best option available for you. We will be transparent about all the likely costs from the outset and will offer you service level guarantees so you can be reassured of the standard of legal representation you will receive from Lanyon Bowdler.

Contact Lanyon Bowdler’s Family Law Solicitors

For effective legal advice and representation contact the specialist family lawyers at Lanyon Bowdler, who are here to offer you a friendly and expert ear. We regularly help clients with the most delicate and complex of cases and can help you regardless of your situation.

We have offices located in Shrewsbury, Bromyard, Conwy, Hereford, Ludlow, Oswestry and Telford, and regularly work on behalf of clients throughout Shropshire, Herefordshire, Mid and North Wales and the Midlands, including Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

We frequently represent clients nationally as well and, as one of the region’s leading full-service law firms, we can provide you with the same exceptional level of legal service.

To speak to us in confidence and to find out more about how we can help you please feel free to contact us by phone or by completing our online enquiry form. One of our team will respond to your query as soon as possible and will be happy to have a more in-depth conversation about the support you require and how Lanyon Bowdler is able to help.


I was impressed with the efficiency and welcome of staff. Excellent office layout and service.  

- Mrs S James & Mr W Parkinson, Telford

A warm welcome from the receptionist. Extremely impressed by all that have helped us, peace of mind for our future.

- Mr M Court & Mrs A May, Shrewsbury

Always very efficient in dealing with the workload and advice given in divorce. Would highly recommend the service I received. 

- Mrs Suzanne Purvin

Knowledge and information given was accurate and realistic.

- Mrs Eleanor Margaret Howells, Hereford

Very efficient, pleasant and fully explained. I am well satisfied.

- Mr Stephen Turner, Oswestry

Friendly atmosphere and very professional attitude. 

- Mr Sidney Jolliffe, Oswestry

Advice was sensible and informative. It allowed me to make the decisions with understanding potential concequences. 

- Mr Paul Simon Burgoyne, Hereford

They listened to my worries and my concerns, which put me at ease and made me feel that I completely had someone in my corner fighting for myself and children's best interests. 

- Miss Deborah Lisa Bradley, Shrewsbury & Oswestry

Case Studies

Nothing Left to Partner

Claire acted for a claimant whose partner died, leaving his entire estate to ...

Read More