Parental Responsibility

Who has it? What's involved?

Who is responsible for the children?

During a divorce or separation, many parents focus on what their rights are regarding their children. But one important issue is what duties each parent should be performing for their children. Parental responsibility belongs to the parent or parents who are involved in the decision making about the upbringing of the child. While the custodial parent may deal with the day to day issues and problems, there are certain times when anyone with parental responsibility should be involved.

When Does Parental Responsibility Apply?

Important decisions regarding a child should be made by the party that has full parental responsibility. These decisions can include choosing where the child attends school, providing routine medical care and access to medical records, and determining the appropriate religion for the child. Those with parental responsibility should also have a say in making decisions about consenting to urgent or emergency medical treatment, taking children for extended holidays or vacations, and representing the child in any legal issues or proceedings such as traffic tickets or criminal charges.

More About Parental Responsibility

Who Has Parental Responsibility?

Even if parents are divorced or never married, mothers usually will have parental responsibility automatically according to the law in most states, however, married fathers can also be given the same responsibility. Unmarried fathers, grandparents, step mothers, and step fathers are not automatically given parental responsibility. Unmarried fathers can gain responsibility when they are registered on the birth certificate, marry the mother, enter an agreement with the mother, or are given an order from the court. Grandparents and stepparents can apply for parental responsibility or visitation rights.

Is Parental Responsibility Transferrable?

While responsibility can be shared, it cannot be completely transferred to another individual. Even if the responsible parent delegates some of the decisions to a relative, friend, teacher, unmarried partner, or baby-sitter, he or she is still responsible for making the ultimate choices when it comes to the child. Temporary caregivers can promote or safeguard the welfare of a child, but do not have responsibility. If an individual is concerned and feel they should have full responsibility, they may benefit from consulting with a family law attorney or contacting the local court system.

All Children Deserve Proper Care

Every parent should know and understand who has parental responsibility regarding their child to ensure that he or she is safe, cared for, and is provided with basic needs. Any parent or person who feels a child is in danger or is not being provided for should contact the proper government agency in their state who will investigate the matter and take any necessary action.