Anna Hunter, Director with Major Family Law, Specialist Divorce and children lawyers, Ponteland holds a Question and Answer column today in the Journal:

Dear Anna

My husband has three children who live with us and I need to know what my rights and responsibilities are towards them.


Dear Tina

Even though you have married, your husband and the children’s mother are the only people with parental responsibility for them. Parental Responsibility means all the rights, duties and responsibilities that a parent has towards a child. In practice it refers to important issues relating to the children such as providing a home, schooling, medical treatment and religion.

Since 2005 it is possible for a step-parent to obtain parental responsibility for their step-children either by agreement or by court order.

If the children’s mother agrees you could all sign a parental responsibility agreement and register it at court. This would enable you to acquire Parental Responsibility for the children. You would then be able to make a decision about the children if needed. For example, if you were with your step-child during a medical emergency, you could provide consent for medical treatment to take place.

If agreement can’t be reached you can apply to the court for a parental responsibility order although I would recommend you seek legal advice before making any application to discuss further.

Image by Véronique Debord-Lazaro via Flickr (Creative Commons)