Separated parents: rights and responsibilities

All parents have a right to participate in decisions about their child's education. Understand what your school has a responsibility to do, and how to avoid common conflicts.

Last reviewed on 11 February 2022
School types: All · School phases: All
Ref: 33548
Contents
  1. Who is a parent? 
  2. Getting and checking parent details
  3. Rights of separated parents
  4. Getting consent
  5. Sharing information
  6. Changing a surname
  7. How to avoid common conflicts
  8. Examples of separated parents policies 

Who is a parent? 

For the purposes of education law, parents include:

  • All biological parents
  • Any person who has parental responsibility for a child or young person, even if they're not biologically related (e.g. adoptive parents, step-parents or guardians)
  • Any person who has care of a child or young person but is not a biological parent and does not have parental responsibility - usually the person with whom the child lives, even if they do not have legal responsibility (e.g. a foster carer) 

This is outlined in Department for Education (DfE) guidance on parental responsibility.

It's possible to lose parental responsibility, for example, if a parent and step-parent divorce. However, it's also possible for the step-parent to keep parental responsibility in that circumstance, so always check whether the official status of the parents has changed.

When parents separate, the resident parent is the parent the child lives with most of the time.