Securing parental rights for co-parenting

children blowing bubbles near washing line

Some children are conceived through co-parenting arrangements, and it is reasonably common for such children to have three or four parents. However, UK law is not well set up for such arrangements, and there is limited flexibility in respect of your choices as to who will be recorded on your child's birth certificate and who will have parental responsibility (and so the right to be involved in day-to-day decision making). 

Obtaining parental rights for co-parenting is possible, and works as follows.

What will go on your child's birth certificate?

Under UK law, a child can have a maximum of two legal parents who are recorded on their birth certificate. The law dictates who the legal parents are; this is not open to agreement between you, although you may be able to plan the position by deciding how and where you conceive and whether you marry before the pregnancy. 

Find out more about co-parenting law in the UK.

What parental rights can be acquired for co-parents not on the birth certificate?

Adoption orders alter legal parenthood, but they are rarely used in co-parenting cases because they move rather than expand parenthood. It is not currently possible for an adoption order to be made in favour of more than two parents.

More than two people can, however, share parental responsibility (which is the right to make and be involved in decisions about a child's care). The birth mother has parental responsibility automatically, and will share it with whoever is registered on the birth certificate as the father or second legal parent.

The other (non-legal) parent/s can acquire parental responsibility either by signing an agreement or by applying to court for a child arrangements order. The specifics of which route is appropriate will depend on whether the person seeking parental responsibility is a legal parent, married to a legal parent or neither (which essentially depends on your marital statuses). 

Find out more about acquiring parental responsibility.

What if you don't agree about who should have parental responsibility?

If relationships have broken down and you wish to acquire parental rights without the agreement of all the co-parents involved, the law is more complex. 

Find out more about co-parenting disputes.


Have we answered your question? Would you like advice on your personal circumstances?

Email us at or call on 020 3701 5915 and we will explain how we can help.