Losing Parental Responsibility

There are various ways prescribed by s 4 (1) (a) of the Children Act 1989 as amended in which an unmarried father may acquire parental responsibility (“PR”) for a child. 

What many people do not know is that there is also a route by which fathers who have acquired PR in that way may lose it. The power is in s 4 (2A) of the Act and is only exercisable by the court.

In the recent case of D v E (Termination of PR) 2021 the High Court considered some of the circumstances in which the power might be used.

The case sets out that the obligation to promote contact between a child and non-resident parent is rebuttable in the right circumstances – for example when the child has no relationship with the parent and the parent has taken no real steps to establish a relationship. In D v E the father was a serial serious offender in a number of ways and presented a significant risk of sexual and emotional harm to the child. Having had the opportunity he had played no part and filed no evidence in relation to the proceedings before the court. He had failed to comply with a number of court orders.

In relation to the PR issue the court asked whether this father would be granted PR if he did not have it but applied for it. Against his overall background of behaviour and lack of engagement with the child the serious step of removal of PR was proportionate and justified as being in the child’s best interests.

Cases such as this are fortunately both very difficult and rare but demonstrate that in the appropriate circumstances the order will be used. Perhaps the lesson is that the emphasis is on Parental “Responsibility”. Without actual exercise of “responsibility” what is the point of the phrase?

If you would like to discuss this in more depth or in relation to a client’s individual circumstances please contact:

Samantha Lloyd, Partner – Head of Wills and Probate


Direct Dial: 01905 332720 

Added: 06 Dec 2021 16:31

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