What are the legal rights of unmarried fathers?
Following on from a family breakdown, it is critical that an unmarried father has the correct information about their legal rights. Here at Sheppersons Solicitors we have a great deal of experience in helping fathers to assert their rights to see their children.
We will explain exactly where you stand in relation to having a say in who your child lives with, regular contact with the non-resident parent and also financial child support.
Unmarried father’s rights to contact with your child
English law accepts that it is in the interests of children to have regular contact with both parents.
Contact with your child can take a number of forms, including:
- Direct face-to-face contact, spending time with them, including overnight stays and weekend stays
- Telephone or Skype contact in between visits
- The ability to write letters, cards and send presents at regular intervals
- Extended visits at school holidays
- The ability to take the children away for a week or two weeks during the long school holiday periods
It is common for ex-partners to have informal agreements for contact to take place between the father and the child. However, 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.
Very often parents can be helped to reach an agreement with the help of a mediator. If both parents agree our Sally Gandon can help in this capacity or we can help you in making an appropriate referral.
Financial maintenance for your child and contact with your child are two separate issues. Having contact with your child is not dependent upon payments of child maintenance. It is the child’s right to have a relationship with both of its parents regardless of finances. However, it should be noted that it is your responsibility to provide financial support to your children, regardless of whether or not you have contact with them
Here at Sheppersons Solicitors we have experienced family lawyers who can help you to work out the most suitable arrangements for contact with your children.
Please see our page on child living arrangements for more information.
What is Parental Responsibility?
Parental Responsibility is a legal term that describes who has the rights and obligations in making decisions that affect the child’s life. Parental responsibility includes the following legal rights and responsibilities:
- Providing a safe home for the child
- Having contact with the child
- Protecting and maintaining the child
- Disciplining the child
- Choosing the child’s education
- Choosing which religion the child is brought up in
- Agreeing on the child’s health and medical care
- Naming the child
Do unmarried father’s have Parental Responsibility?
The following rules apply to Parental Responsibility:
- The natural mother of the child automatically has parental responsibility
- If the parents are married at the time of the child’s birth then the father has automatic parental responsibility
- Unmarried fathers 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 do automatically have shared parental responsibility with the mother
- If your child was born before 1st December 2003, you do not.
How to obtain Parental Responsibility
If you do not have parental responsibility, then it can be obtained by one of the following methods:
- Agreeing with the mother and signing a written parental responsibility agreement
- Obtaining a parental responsibility order from the Courts
- Obtaining an order providing that the child lives with you alone or in a shared arrangement (what used to be called a residence order)
- Marrying the mother
- Being appointed as the child’s guardian
If you wish to apply for parental responsibility please contact us for a consultation.
Two members of our Family law team are members of Resolution.
Members of Resolution are required to follow the Resolution code of practice which commits family lawyers to resolving disputes in a non-confrontational way, preserving people’s dignity and encouraging agreements.