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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

01 SEP 2014

Research: an empirical exploration of parental responsibility for step-parents [2014] CFLQ 301

Keywords: Parenting - step-parents - parental responsibility

Parental responsibility is a central concept in the legal framework of child and parent relations in England and Wales, yet its meaning and utility is contested. This article seeks to provide a fresh perspective in order to enhance understanding of the concept, by reference to the views of step-parents obtained in interview. Step-parents' experiences of parenting and views of their parenting role can yield particularly interesting insights into parental responsibility as they may carry out day-to-day parenting yet lack a biological link. Although the acquisition of parental responsibility would be of assistance to a proportion of step-parents, data released by the Ministry of Justice indicates that take-up by step-parents of parental responsibility has been very low. Drawing upon interview data, this article argues that step-parents may identify parental responsibility with being a parent, not with the activity of parenting. For some step-parents, this is a deterrent to its acquisition. The article concludes by recommending a change of name from 'parental responsibility' to 'child responsibility' to sever the link with parenthood.

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