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Co-Parenting in the UK

You, Your Legal Rights, Your Legal Responsibilities and Co-Parenting in the UK

In the UK, parents have legal responsibilities as well as rights from the very moment they become parents. However, what many parents don’t understand is that those legal responsibilities and rights are maintained even if they are not the primary legal guardian. Not understanding your rights can complicate co-parenting so let’s take some time going over your legal rights, responsibilities (also known as parental responsibility) and how it applies to co-parenting in the UK.

What is Parental Responsibility?

In the UK, parental responsibility is a term that covers both the legal rights and responsibilities that parents have when it comes to their children. With parental responsibility, parents are required to cover two main roles for the child:

  1. Provide a home
  2. Protect and maintain

Protect and maintain covers a wide range of responsibilities that the child will need on the day to day. These are:

  1. Providing medical care and treatment
  2. Ensuring financial support of that child
  3. Disciplining the child
  4. Maintaining and caring for the child’s property
  5. Providing education

Another responsibility, which is not usually under consideration during separation and divorce is the naming of the child; however, there is a legal right to being able to agree to any name changes of the child at any time. 

Parental responsibility is having a say in how your child is raised while also needing to maintain the basic needs of your child. 

Who Does Parental Responsibility Pertain To?

First, all mothers have parental responsibility from the moment of birth. This is only relinquished through adoption, and rarely through court processes that prove abuse. Fathers, however, do not always have parental responsibility, but there are a few ways that they can gain parental responsibility. These are:

  1. Being named as the father (or other parent) on the birth certificate
  2. Marriage to the child’s mother

It should be noted that where you are in the UK can affect the father’s parental responsibility. In the UK and Wales, if the parents are married when the child is born or adopted, they both have parental responsibility. In Scotland, this applies to children born or adopted when partners are married or get married after the child is born. And in Northern Ireland, it applies to marriage after the child is born only if the father resides in Northern Ireland at the time of the marriage.

One thing that should be mentioned is that same sex partners who are in a civil partnership at the time of the child’s birth have equal parental responsibility. However, if they were not, they would have to apply for parental responsibility. In the UK, parental responsibility can be applied for by fathers, same sex partners, and stepfathers/parents. In addition, there can be more than two adults who have parental responsibility of a child. 

If the mother is unwilling to agree to parental responsibility with her partner, it can be processed through a court order.

What is Parental Responsibility in Separation and Divorce?

Now that we understand parental responsibility and how it applies to fathers and mothers, it is important to quickly understand UK law around divorce and children

First, regardless of parental responsibility, historically, mothers often have more legal rights over the children than fathers do. This is because, traditionally, mothers have been seen as primary caregivers to their children and while these roles have been changing over the last few decades, fathers with equal parental responsibility may not be seen as equal caregivers.

Second, during court proceedings, courts tend to rule in favour of the mother for primary residence but this is not always the case.

Third, even if the primary home is not with the father, this does not diminish the legal rights of the father. Generally, day to day decisions based on care are the responsibility of the mother when she is the primary caregiver; however, major decisions have to be agreed upon by both parents.

Finally, if the primary home is with the father, it is important to note that a mother cannot be denied contact with her child or be denied the right to make decisions about her child. The only time a mother does not have that legal responsibility is, again, if abuse or neglect is proven or if the mother gives up her parental rights. 

What Does This Mean for Co-Parenting

Now that we know a lot of the legalities, what does that mean for co-parenting your child? There are a few things that you should know.

  1. You have parental responsibility for your child, regardless of if you live with them or not. This means that all major decisions about your child’s life must include you and your ex-partner.
  2. Routine decisions do not need permissions from both parents. While it makes it easier to have the permission of both, which makes the 2Houses app an essential tool for co-parenting, only one parent needs to give permission. For instance, if your child always spent Wednesday evenings with his grandparents, you would not need to get permission to continue this practice after the divorce.
  3. Decisions should be made in writing. This is applied to major decisions. If you want to move abroad with your child, both parents have to agree to it in writing. These documents can be stored on the 2Houses app.
  4. Child support is one of the responsibilities of parental responsibility and you and your ex-partner will have to discuss what those responsibilities will look like.

In the end, co-parenting can be agreed upon by court order. However, it is good for you to talk to your ex-partner of how you will split up the responsibilities, where the children will reside, visitation schedules and the finer details. Both parents have rights and responsibilities and the sooner they can come to an agreement on how that will be split after the divorce, the sooner life can return to a routine that where your children will thrive. 

Why 2houses?

We are a co-parenting facilitator!


A calendar for everyone, getting organised when you’re divorced is a priority. 2houses provides you an online shared schedule, with many editing, adding, and sync features.


For us, as divorced parents, the financial topic is most of the time a conflict topic. Now, 2houses manages all expenses from each parent, keeps you informed on the situation, day after day, coins after coins.


Communication is key, this is why 2houses offers you an online messaging tool, simple, efficient and secure.


The journal is your quick family social network. You can easily share all information, news, photos, videos, and even your children’s funny quotes. The family is never far away, no matter where you are geographically located.

And many more features!

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