Fathers’ Rights & Parental Responsibility

If you are thinking about divorce or separation and have children, you may have also considered your fathers’ rights. Fathers’ rights involve having parental responsibility for their child. Parental responsibility was defined in the Children Act 1989 as ‘all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property.’

Father and son sitting together

This means those with parental responsibility have the legal right and duty to care for their child. If you have father parental responsibility, it is your obligation to:

  • Provide a place for your child to live
  • Maintain your child financially
  • Support and protect your child

Fathers’ rights also include the right to be involved in making decisions about the child’s upbringing, some of which include:

  • Registering your child’s name and agreeing to name changes
  • Consenting to your child’s medical procedures
  • Deciding on and providing for your child’s education
  • Taking care of your child’s property
  • Disciplining your child appropriately
  • Choosing their religion

If you have father parental responsibility but are separated from the child’s mother, it is still your duty to make decisions relating to the child’s welfare.

Do You Have Father Parental Responsibility?

A child’s mother automatically has parental responsibility. You will normally have fathers’ rights if you are married to the child’s mother (before or after the birth), you have adopted the child, or if you are named on the child’s birth certificate after 1st December 2003.

A child’s birth can be registered up to 42 days after they are born. If you are not married to the child’s mother, you should be present at the registration. Your attendance can guarantee you receive father parental responsibility.

In the event of divorce, you will usually keep your fathers’ rights.

If You Do Not Have Father Parental Responsibility

If you do not have parental responsibility, you may not have the right to make decisions about your child’s upbringing. However, it is still up to you to support your child financially.

Fathers’ rights do not always apply if you are not married to the child’s mother, or named on the child’s birth certificate. In this case, you can apply for father parental responsibility.

In addition, step parent parental responsibility does not automatically apply, no matter how significant your input in the child’s life. There is a separate application process for stepfathers seeking parental responsibility.

How to Get Father Parental Responsibility

Fathers can acquire parental responsibility outside of court. You can either marry the child’s mother or re-register the child’s birth certificate in your name.

However, if you are separating from your partner, it is unlikely for you to obtain fathers’ rights through these methods. Children and parenting disputes can cause emotional implications as well as having a significant impact on your family. It may be the child’s mother does not want to re-register the birth certificate in your name. But you can still keep the matter out of court by signing a parental responsibility agreement.

Obtaining Fathers’ Rights with a Parental Responsibility Agreement

A child’s biological father can request the courts witness a parental responsibility agreement. The agreement will be signed and witnessed in your local county court. It’s recommended you seek advice from a family law solicitor to help you fill in the agreement form before taking it to court. A family law solicitor can also explain the process and advise you on the effects of the agreement.

What can be problematic with parental responsibility agreements is the child’s mother must also agree. If you are having difficulties because of your relationship breakdown, the child’s mother may be unwilling to agree to you acquiring fathers’ rights.

It is most important to avoid disrupting the child’s life. Additionally, the courts will always view the child’s welfare as paramount. Nevertheless, if you cannot come to an agreement with your ex-partner through mediation or counselling, you can take the issue to court.

Going to Court for Fathers’ Rights

If you cannot successfully make a parental responsibility agreement, you can apply for a parental responsibility order through the courts. Most parties need to attend mediation first to help you communicate with your ex-partner and find out if you really need to go to court. As expert family law solicitors, we find the majority of our cases are successfully resolved without court proceedings, which can be costly and time-consuming.

If you are going to court to obtain fathers’ rights, it is strongly advised a family law solicitor represents you.

For a parental responsibility order, it will cost £215 to apply. The courts will make a decision based on the father’s reasons for applying and their connection to the child.

Father Parental Responsibility Order Process

Once you have completed the relevant forms and submitted your parental responsibility order application to court, you can await your court date. The date for the first hearing can be up to six weeks after applying, of which you and your ex-partner must both attend. The Court will decide the outcome on an individual basis, as no case of parental responsibility is ever the same. A decision, known as the Final Order, will not necessarily be made at this stage. You may need to attend further hearings or appointments before the Final Order is complete.

Getting Help with Fathers’ Rights

If you want to acquire father parental responsibility through an agreement or an order, Major Family Law can give you our specialist knowledge to guide you through the process. We offer a number of different approaches to family disputes, from offering legal support to help you reach your own agreement to delivering our full court representation service.

If you are looking for more information on fathers’ rights, contact us via email on enquiries@majorfamilylaw.co.uk and receive expert advice from Major Family Law.