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Ask The Legal Expert- Parental Responsibility for Step Children.

View profile for Matthew Wells
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This month Matthew Wells,  Family Solicitor and specialist in divorce, financial disputes and cohabitation agreements tackles the issue of Parental Responsibility. 

I have recently re-married and my husband would like to take on Parental Responsibility for my son - his step-son. This would make life easier when I’m working shifts and he needs to collect my boy from school. How should we proceed?

This is a common issue and it is one many step-families will have come across. Parental Responsibility in family law is a legal status derived from the Children Act 1989. At the moment your husband may be jointly responsible for your son’s daily care, but that doesn’t mean he has the formal status of a parent with Parental Responsibility.

Under Section 2(9) of the Children Act 1989 you can delegate parental responsibility to your husband in order to safeguard your child’s welfare – and this would include allowing your partner to pick your son up from school. However, this applies to a temporary delegation of duties only. 

A more long-term solution to this issue can be relatively straightforward – but, as with many areas of family law, your chances of success will, in part, depend upon the quality of your relationship with your former partner.

Your husband can take on Parental Responsibility as a step-parent in the following ways:
 
1.    By entering into a Parental Responsibility agreement.  This agreement must be entered into between you, by your son’s  natural father and by your husband.  If your son’s natural father does not agree to a Parental Responsibility agreement then you  need to apply to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order.
 
2.    By applying to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order. In this case the Court sets quite a high threshold of qualification. Your son’s welfare will be its paramount consideration and they would consider a check-list of factors to determine whether or not it is in your son’s best interests for his step-father to be granted parental responsibility.

It would be sensible to seek advice from an experienced family lawyer over this issue so they can advise you on your options – whether you opt for a statutory declaration delegating Parental Responsibility, or take a more permanent approach by completing a Parental Responsibility agreement, or whether you make an application to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order.

*The question posed in this blog is based on a hypothetical situation.

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