When a couple separates for any reason, it can be a tough situation to navigate for both parties. This is especially true when children are involved. Some tough decisions need to be made around the ongoing care of the children involved and how practical parental responsibilities will be split after separation. We hear a lot in the media and other channels about the mother’s rights but not so much about the father’s rights, what they are entitled to and where they stand.
A Father’s Rights
What legal rights a father has will depend on whether he has parental responsibility for his child/ren or not. Being the biological father doesn’t give this automatic responsibility. To have parental responsibility, the father needs to be married to the child/ren’s mother, or if unmarried, named on the birth certificate. Alternatively, parental rights can be gained by entering into an agreement with the mother (which is registered at court) or by obtaining a court order.
Having parental responsibility gives a father greater automatic involvement with their child/ren. It will mean he is entitled to be involved in important decisions concerning the child/ren, for example, what school the child/ren attend, what religion they observe and what medical treatment they can have. He will also have joint responsibility for making sure that the child/ren is looked after and provided for. If more than one person holds parental responsibility, decisions about the child/ren’s care should be made jointly.
In addition, if one parent wants to take the child/ren abroad, they will need to seek the other person’s permission with parental responsibility; otherwise, it could be considered child abduction.
What rights do fathers have if not on the birth certificate?
If the father’s name is not on the birth certificate, then he does not have parental responsibility and so has no right to be involved/consulted on significant decisions in the child/ren’s life. He would need to enter into a formal (and court registered) agreement with the mother, or seek a court order for parental responsibility.
What rights do fathers have if named on the birth certificate?
If the father is named on the birth certificate, he has joint parental responsibility for the child/ren alongside the mother. He is entitled to be equally involved in decisions regarding that child/ren’s care and schooling and shares the responsibility for providing for them.
What rights do unmarried fathers have?
Whether the father was married to the child/ren’s mother or not, they still have the same amount of parental responsibility if they are named on the birth certificate or have a registered parental responsibility agreement in place.
A father has a right to see their child and be involved in their life if it is in the child’s best interests, regardless of having parental responsibility.
You can book a free, confidential consultation with National Legal Service’s experienced family solicitors to discuss your circumstances and find out how we can help if you are looking to understand your options and require expert legal support.