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JR Jones Solicitors Birmingham
solicitors Birmingham

What are the legal rights of unmarried fathers?

Following a separation or divorce, many fathers will be unsure of what their legal rights are over their children. We are specialists in unmarried father’s rights and we can explain where you stand in relation to who your child should live with and what contact they will have with the other parent. Contact us for more information or if you require legal representation.

Contact with your child

The law in England accepts that it is in the interests of children to have regular contact with both parents.

Child contact arrangements can take a number of forms, for example:

  • Face-to-face contact, including overnight stays and weekend stays
  • Extended stays in school holidays
  • Telephone contact
  • The ability to take the children away for a week or two during the long school holiday periods
  • The ability to write letters, cards and send presents at regular intervals

It is common for separated or divorced couples to have informal agreements for contact to take place between the father and the child. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for these arrangements to fall apart if one parent uses child contact as a bargaining chip, for example in cases of non payment of maintenance.

Financial maintenance and child contact are two separate issues and contact with a child is not dependent upon payments of maintenance. It is the child’s right to have a relationship with both of their parents, regardless of finances.

Our experienced family solicitors can help you to work out the most suitable arrangements for contact with your children.

Please see our page on child contact for more information.

What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental Responsibility is the legal term that describes who has the rights and obligations to make decisions that affect the child’s life. Parental responsibility includes the following legal rights and responsibilities:

  • Naming the child
  • Providing a safe home for the child
  • Having regular contact with the child
  • Protecting the child and agreeing on the child’s health and medical care
  • Disciplining the child
  • Choosing the child’s education
  • Choosing which religion the child is brought up in (if any)

Who has Parental Responsibility?

The natural mother of the child always has parental responsibility. If the parents are married at the time of the child’s birth then the father also has automatic parental responsibility.

If you are an unmarried father, you will only have automatic parental responsibility depending on when the child was born. If you are the father of a child born after 1st December 2003 and you are named on the birth certificate, then you automatically have shared parental responsibility with the mother. If your child was born before 1st December 2003, you do not have automatic parental responsibility.

How can I get Parental Responsibility?

If you do not already have parental responsibility, then it can be obtained using one of the following methods:contact us

  • Marrying the mother
  • Agreeing with the mother and signing a formal written parental responsibility agreement
  • Obtaining a parental responsibility order from the Courts
  • Obtaining a residence order, providing that the child lives with you
  • Being appointed as the child’s legal guardian

If you need help in obtaining parental responsibility please contact us.