The Children Act 1989 specifically identifies that holders of parental responsibility can devolve that parental responsibility to others.

Parental responsibility devolvement explained

Parents, without realising it, will devolve parental responsibility to others on a regular if not daily basis. For example, every time a child is sent to school, in effect, parental responsibility is devolved to an extent to that school which allows them to put into place rules and regulations which the child is required to comply with. Similarly, parental responsibility is devolved when the child goes to stay for a weekend with grandparents or a babysitter comes in to provide care for the child.

These devolvements of parental responsibility however are rarely, if at all, done in any formalised way.

The Children Act of 1989 does not set out any specific format nor indeed any particular form within which a devolvement of parental responsibility can or should be recorded.

Step parents

Consequently in circumstances where a child is part of a blended family with a stepparent, unless that stepparent wants to go through the formal process as set out in Article 32, the most straightforward way of providing some authority and responsibility to that step parent is to devolve parental responsibility to them.

This can be done by the parent with whom they live without requiring the consent of the other parent.

As stated, whilst there is no specific formalised arrangement or document to undertake this, there is nothing to stop a formal document being drafted up which confirms that the parent who is making the same is a parent with parental responsibility and that they are devolving parental responsibility to the named person.

This devolvement can set out as much detail as is necessary including those matters and issues which they devolve and the kinds of parental responsibility that they are devolving for them to undertake.

Situation with Schools

This could include identifying that schools are entitled to communicate with that stepparent as if they were the parent and to receive instructions from them in the same way as if it were from the parent. i.e. authority to provide information to the stepparent and to accept forms and documents signed as if it were signed by the biological parent.

Such documents can be created to identify specific period i.e. may last for a period of one, two years or more and/or to identify that they would terminate in certain circumstances such as separation. Once prepared, these documents can then be lodged with schools, doctors and other third parties to confirm the facility for the stepparent to take appropriate actions on behalf of the child.

Whilst I have referenced “stepparent” substantially within this article, the same situation would arise if for example a parent knew that they had to go into hospital for an operation and would be out of circulation for a week or two, then they could prepare a document confirming that they were devolving parental responsibility to somebody who will be providing limited in time care to the child such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle.

If you are asked any questions relating to the devolvement of parental responsibility or would now like more information on the different types of proceedings relating to children, please get in touch with our Family Team and we would be happy to assist you.

This article is part of a series on Private Family Law and Children Law proceedings. If you would like to learn more about the rules around parental responsibility, contact, holidays and arrangements for separated parents, please click here for the full series.