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    10 April 2020

    Step Parents and Parental Responsibility

    Step families are increasingly a part of every day life but what are the differences between a step parent’s legal rights and a biological parent’s?

    In this article Head of Family Law at Steeles Law, Sally Harris looks at whether Step Parents have Parental Responsibility for the children living with them?

    Step Parents and Parental Responsibility

    A step parent can play a huge role in a child’s life but what rights do they have if they separate from the biological parent to stay in touch with their step child? As families become more complex this and similar questions are arising more and more frequently.

    A biological mother will have Parental Responsibility for her child automatically from birth.  The biological father has Parental Responsibility if he is married to the mother or listed on the birth certificate from the 1st December 2003 onwards.

    If both parents have Parental Responsibility (PR), they retain it on separation or divorce.  This is not the case however for a step parent.

    When a couple starts living together, and perhaps later marry, they may both have children from earlier relationships who are cared for within the shared family home.  Parental Responsibility however does not automatically attach to the step parent for their partner’s children.

    What is Parental Responsibility?

    Parental Responsibility is the legal right to make important decisions for your child about their education, medical treatment and religion.  A step parent will not automatically have these rights and must either be granted them by the biological parents or apply to the Court for an order.

    If the biological parents agree to extend PR to a step parent an agreement can be drawn up and taken to the local Family Court where it can signed and witnessed.

    If one or both of the biological parents do not agree to the step parent having PR the step parent can apply to Court for an order.  The fee is £215.00 and the application is sent to the local Family Court.  If you are on a low income there may well be help with the Court fee.

    A Court will have the child’s best interests as its paramount consideration when hearing a step parent’s application for PR.  It will consider any objections from the parents with PR.  If an order is made for the step parent to have PR this will continue even if the step parent separates or divorces in the future from the biological parent.  It is possible for more than two people to have PR at any given time for a child.

    The Family Team at Steeles Law is long experienced in dealing with issues surrounding Step Parents and Parental Responsibility.  If you need any advice or have questions with regard to this or any other family matters please the family team on 01603 598000 or email family@steeleslaw.co.uk.  The Steeles Law Family Team offers a fixed fee for an initial interview up to an hour for £75.00 plus VAT. Appointments available at our Norwich, Diss and London offices.

    *The information provided in this article is designed to provide useful information on the subject, not to provide specific legal advice.

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