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Last update: 25-03-2008
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Parental responsibility - General Information

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Caring for children

All children need to be looked after and cared for. In most cases, the children's parents are responsible for this. This is why the term “parental responsibility” is used to describe the duties and rights to take care of a child.

The concept “parental responsibility” covers the duties and rights to take care of the child's person and property. This includes a responsibility to ensure that the child has shelter, food and clothes as well as a responsibility for the child's upbringing. It includes the responsibility to look after the child's property, if any. It also includes the right to represent the child legally.

The persons having parental responsibility of a child can be referred to as “holders of parental responsibility” . In most cases, the parents of the child have this responsibility. However, if the parents are deceased or no longer capable or authorised to take care of their child, a guardian can be appointed to represent the child. The guardian can be a relative, a third person or an institution.

As long as the parents live together, they usually exercise the parental responsibility over their children jointly according to the law. However, if the parents divorce or split up, they need to decide how this responsibility will be exercised in the future. The parents may decide that the child shall live alternatively with both parents or with one parent. In the latter case, the other parent usually has a right to visit the child at certain times. The parents may decide these matters by a mutual agreement or by going to court.

When a court is used, it decides which parent shall have the custody rights over the child. The custody holder decides, among other things, where the child shall live. The court may decide that both parents shall have custody over the child (joint custody) or that one of the parents shall have custody (single custody). When one of the parents is granted single custody, the other parent is often granted the right to see the child during certain periods (access rights or visiting rights).

The rules on custody and access rights differ from Member State to Member State. By clicking on the flags of the Member States, you can obtain information on the national laws concerned.

In certain cases, it may be necessary to have a judgment on parental responsibility recognised and enforced in another Member State. As of 1st March 2001, a Council Regulation lays down rules on this subject. There is also a Commission proposal of 3 May 2002 dealing with parental responsibility. Information about this can be found by clicking on the “Community law” icon.

There are a number of international conventions concerning parental responsibility.

Information on this subject can be found by clicking on the “International law” icon.


Last update: 25-03-2008

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