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How Visitation Rights Work For Fathers

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 16 Nov 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Separated Dads Visitation Rights Contact

As a father you want to stay in close touch with your children, even after you and your partner have separated. Obviously, the best and simplest way to do this is an agreement between you and your ex, which can be made legally binding by solicitors. This means it doesn’t have to go through the courts, and will work when relations between the pair of you are amicable.

If you have Parental Responsibility, either by being married to the mother when the child was born, being present when the birth was registered and having your name on the birth certificate as the father, or through a Parental Responsibility Agreement or Parental Responsibility Order, you have rights and responsibilities to your children.

Obviously, part of that is support in financial terms, but also in emotional and legal terms, too. In return, you have contact with your children. Family Courts have a principle called “presumption of contact”, under which they have to do everything possible for fathers to see their children.

Contact Orders

Very often, Court-issued Contact Orders prove unnecessary, since arrangements will have been worked out privately or in mediation between the two parents. However, even where a Contact Order is issued, often the parents are allowed to work out the details for themselves. Before any Contact Order is issued, however, the court must take several things into consideration:

  • What the child wishes, if he or she is old enough to make any kind of decision
  • The educational and emotional needs of the child
  • Whether there’s any risk of harm to the child
  • Whether you’re capable of meeting the child’s needs during contact

These might seem possibly weighted against you, but the sole intent is for the welfare of the child. In the vast majority of cases – well over 90% – Contact Orders are granted. If it’s come to a hearing, one important factor will be the report by the Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) officer. Both parents, as well as other carers and teachers, will have been interviewed, and in most cases the court accepts the report as it stands (although you can challenge part of it or even ask for a new report from a different officer if you disagree).

Residence Order

A Residence Order determines who the children should live with. If none has been issued, then the children will stay with their mother. You can apply for a Residence Order to have full custody of your children, but realistically speaking, unless there are pressing reasons they should not stay with their mother, it’s unlikely your request will be granted custody.

Things Not To Do

When you have contact with the children, you should not attempt to take them out of the country without written permission from their mother. Even if it’s for a holiday, this needs to be discussed and permission in writing given. While you have the children, don’t say negative things about your ex-partner. It creates confusion and a bad atmosphere for the children. You have more positive things to concentrate on during your time with them, anyway.

Take at look at our article Making the Most of Your Time With Your Child for some ideas about what you can do together.

Check out the Separated Dads Forum... It's a great resource where you can ask for advice on topics including Child Access, Maintenance, CAFCASS, Fathers Rights, Court, Behaviour or simply to have a chat with other dads.

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[Add a Comment]
We have a contact order in place o have children live with me when my partner takes them over night he doesn't always have them he leaves them with other people i don't know or know where they are or live he wont let me talk to them ihis time either. Do i have a right to know where my children are sleeping if not at his address and if he is not there with them. Uk.
Edana - 16-Nov-18 @ 11:33 AM
My daughters mother has cut down the times I see my daughter and I hardly see her. We have a good relationship but her mother controls when I see her. Mediation didn’t work and I have now put a court application in to sort out access. My question is if my child’s mother brings up that I have been to jail (nothing child related AND been seen by Social services to confirm I’m ok with having my daughter by myself) will this affect my access? My daughter has stayed with me 1000s of times over night and gone away with me out of town. I’m just wondering what things could go against me if any. I also pay maintenance. My ex is trying to say I don’t call my daughter enough and that’s why I can’t see her... however my ex blocks my number on purpose. I want my daughter every other wkend Friday to Sunday but she is saying sat to Sunday every other wk.. I would also like to share birthdays and Christmas what are my chances? Thanks in advance.
Soph - 8-Nov-18 @ 1:09 PM
I need some advise, I have been having regular contact with my boys, I have them extra during the holidays and have never missed a CMS payment, their mother has now insisted that things change, that I must have them for her honeymoon etc etc! I have paid for mediation 3 times already! Has she got grounds to take me to court? Any help will be gratefully recieved Dan
Danwj7 - 6-Oct-18 @ 12:51 PM
@zic.yes I think it is suitable for the (14 year old ).the rest can stay with you .and myex said I couldn’t compromise .as for your daughter meeting the fathers women well just let them meet after a few stays overs they will be like mother and daughter to peas in a pod .she might even like step mummy more then you there is food for thought .ps are you judging the father because he lives in a flat ?.do you live in a mansion on snop hill looking down on the little people living in flats pondering weather it is suitable a father to see his own flesh and blood because of where he lives ?
Luciano - 1-Oct-18 @ 1:32 PM
Does anyone know if it is considered acceptable for 4 children aged 6, 10, 12 and 14 to stay regularly for weekend overnight visits in a 2 bed flat with their father and a partner they never met.
Zlc - 1-Oct-18 @ 12:00 PM
@vincent- @alexis - many mothers have issues about handing over their child to a parent the child is not familiar with, especially when the child is very young. Alexis doesn't have to justify any reasons why she doesn't drive. If she doesn't drive it is up to both the parents to try and work this out between them. You shouldn't jump to such knee-jerk conclusions Vincent.
JonB - 10-Sep-18 @ 10:33 AM
Alexis - Your Question:
@vincent Firstly I never learned to drive, I have provisional and am planning to learn soon (finances allowing). Secondly, try keeping your own emotions about situations to yourself, to imply that the only reason I have trust issues or can’t drive is due to a medical issue or disability is incredibly insulting to those who suffer such things and is a stupidly ignorant statement. I am not using control as a weapon, my child’s father is welcome to see our child any time he likes. I’ve offered to allow him to stay in my house with our child (as I feel this would be better for our child) for a couple of nights whilst I stay somewhere else if necessary. My issue is with my child being taken out of his preferred environment and routine at such a young age.

Our Response:
In situations such as this, mediation should be considered if you cannot agree between yourselves. The link here , should explain further. There are no rule books, so it is very much you both agreeing on coming to a workable decision between you. Until then, as your child's primary carer you should continue to keep to the arrangements which you think are in your child's best interests. If you cannot agree through mediation, then your ex will have the option to apply to court. In which case, the court will make a decision based upon what it thinks is in your child's best interests, please see the link here .
SeparatedDads - 10-Sep-18 @ 9:42 AM
@vincent Firstly I never learned to drive, I have provisional and am planning to learn soon (finances allowing). Secondly, try keeping your own emotions about situations to yourself, to imply that the only reason I have trust issues or can’t drive is due to a medical issue or disability is incredibly insulting to those who suffer such things and is a stupidly ignorant statement. I am not using control as a weapon, my child’s father is welcome to see our child any time he likes. I’ve offered to allow him to stay in my house with our child (as I feel this would be better for our child) for a couple of nights whilst I stay somewhere else if necessary. My issue is with my child being taken out of his preferred environment and routine at such a young age.
Alexis - 9-Sep-18 @ 7:43 AM
@alexis.you [don't drive] do you have a medical issue or disabled ?is that why you have trust issues about handing your baby over ?or is it a control thing a weapon ?
vincent - 9-Sep-18 @ 2:21 AM
I have a 10 year old daughter with my ex and we split when she was 2 he goes months without seeing her sometimes promises her he will come then cancels at the last minute very upsetting and detrimental to her well being, while I want her to continue to have a relationship with her father I refuse to carry on with this last minute let downs as unfair on my child I have heard I can file for a residency order would this be suitable for the current situation or is it another order I need?, thanks, p.s he is not abusive or anything of that nature thanks
Andsoitcontinues - 22-Aug-18 @ 7:22 AM
@shezza .its wonderful hun that your child has a great step daddy .you best keep him away from the bio father drugs are no no and raided oh my god what a out law .i would keep my child away from that i would tell police and get social involved .there is no way i would allow my child around that .get step daddy to protect your family like man .
betty boo - 20-Aug-18 @ 11:17 PM
Hi i have a 10yr old son with autism who hasnt seen his dad in over 6years.he has a step dad now who is fantastic with him.i am just wondering what will happen if he trys to go to court to see him again as its been so long and my son doesnt like to go anywhere and has a stricted routine.when he used to see him 6years ago he was always late for him sometimes he never came i also have police reports of violence with him and also he was raided for drugs.please help thank you
Shezza - 20-Aug-18 @ 9:48 PM
Hello I have been suffering from depression for the last year. As I had a procedure on my eye which went wrong. I’m currently waiting for it to recover. I’m now doing a lot better on medication and doing general house work etc. The father My child and got a temp residence while the courts get evidence reports etc doctor records. I was under mental health for a brief time but discharged. At the moment I can’t go out as my eye is recovering and I feel self conscious but can look after my child at home. I do go shops etc but not places with people I know as yet. I’ve never suffered from depression in my life before and I had my child live with me 4 years before while me and partner split. I have people to help with school runs and taking my child out. What’s the likely hood I get full custody as the father is fighting me in court. I’m now getting better but suffered a injury and in recovery thank you
Emz1 - 18-Aug-18 @ 8:41 PM
@leo.people think i am autistic you no why because i never went legal or to court for my daughter and i rejected my x with good reason .i didn't[ want to be with her ].the reason i didn't go legal was because i was in that much[ trouble ]and made the choice to live the life i want and if that bothers people or they think i am autistic well good for them not everyone will like you .i just made the choice to change and will not have any part in the life i use to live or associate with people who i think bring nothing but drama into life wanting me to snap and carrie on like a pork chop . easy fixed in my view just wipe the lot start again .
laurie - 17-Aug-18 @ 7:44 PM
I'm only 2 months pregnant and my relationship has ended badly. I'm planning on keeping the baby but I'm worried about how access will work with a new born baby. I understand the baby seeing its father is very important but i will be breastfeeding and long times apart in the first few months from the mother is not good for the babys routine and bonding. My ex partner lives 1 hour away and has access 3 days a week to his serverly autistic son 14 years old. His son can be unpredictable and I'd worry if my baby was around him. In addition his son needs constant supervision so I wonder how he could care for the baby. Also I'd worry if he could care for a new born as his ex partner cared mostly for their son when he was a baby. Any advise would be appreciated.
Leo - 17-Aug-18 @ 6:16 PM
Kev - Your Question:
I have recently found out that i’m A father of a 9 year old that I never met and was told wasn’t mine at birth. I did the honourable thing and did a paternity test with no objections through CMS. I’m the father of a child I never met and the mother claims i’m Still not and if I ever do he will not know i’m The father. I’m seeking legal advise this week but please help and advise on CMS payments and my rights. Do I have any? Do I have to pay if the mother as said above and says he’s already got a father. She said before the test she wanted the truth and me and the wife agreed i’d get it done as the mother did not tell the truth on due dates etc.

Our Response:
If you have been found to be the biological father of a child, then by law you are responsible to pay child maintenance regardless of whether you see your child or not. However, if the child is biologically your you have every right to push for access to see your child. Once you have gained initial advice, and if the mother of your child will not agree to mediation to resolve the issue, then an application to court would be your next option. The difficulty you may face is that your child may be under the illusion the other person is the father. In which case, as in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the child in question. The court will always put the child’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order. The link here will outline the process further. If you cannot afford legal fees to represent yourself in court then you can self-litigate, please see the link here. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 14-Aug-18 @ 12:53 PM
I have recently found out that i’m A father of a 9 year old that I never met and was told wasn’t mine at birth. I did the honourable thing and did a paternity test with no objections through CMS. I’m the father of a child I never met and the mother claims i’m Still not and if I ever do he will not know i’m The father. I’m seeking legal advise this week but please help and advise on CMS payments and my rights. Do I have any? Do I have to pay if the mother as said above and says he’s already got a father. She said before the test she wanted the truth and me and the wife agreed i’d get it done as the mother did not tell the truth on due dates etc.
Kev - 13-Aug-18 @ 6:51 PM
Salvatore - Your Question:
I have a son who’s turned five recently. My x partner moved away two hours away. I see him every other weekend then one Sunday the next. She’s using every excuse for me not to see him on that Sunday also won’t meet me halfway only meets me halfway when I drop him home as I refuse to drive two hours. What can I do financially and the time it takes is just stressful

Our Response:
You may be able to apply for a special expenses variation via CMS, please see link here.
SeparatedDads - 27-Jul-18 @ 2:56 PM
I have a son who’s turned five recently. My x partner moved away two hours away. I see him every other weekend then one Sunday the next. She’s using every excuse for me not to see him on that Sunday also won’t meet me halfway only meets me halfway when I drop him home as I refuse to drive two hours. What can I do financially and the time it takes is just stressful
Salvatore - 27-Jul-18 @ 1:12 PM
Johnnyc - Your Question:
Hi everyone. Just wondered if anyone could have any information that may help me. I have a 10 yr old daughter I split up with her mum in 2013 and it was a bitter break up. She denied me access so it went through the courts where I was given contact every other weekend for 2 nights and mid week contact for her to come over for dinner. My ex then moved to Scotland without my consent I had phone contact with my daughter for a short while and was in contact with her school. At the end of 2014 she stopped all contact blocked my number and moved my daughters school. I have been looking for her ever since. I pay maintenance monthly and just really want to find her. So my question is legally where do I go from here?!? P.s I have full parental responsibility. Thanks in advance john

Our Response:
You would have to refer the matter back to court. If you do not have the address, then you can apply for a C4 form. This is an application for an order for disclosure of a child's whereabouts, please see link here. If you fill in this for along with the C79 enforcement order form it means the courts can put a trace on your child in order to allow you to bring the matter to court.
SeparatedDads - 17-Jul-18 @ 3:27 PM
Hi everyone. Just wondered if anyone could have any information that may help me. I have a 10 yr old daughter I split up with her mum in 2013 and it was abitter break up. She denied me access so it went through the courts where I was given contact every other weekend for 2 nights and mid week contact for her to come over for dinner. My ex then moved to Scotland without my consent I had phone contact with my daughter for a short while and was in contact with her school. At the end of 2014 she stopped all contact blocked my number and moved my daughters school. I have been looking for her ever since. I pay maintenance monthly and just really want to find her. So my question is legally where do I go from here?!? P.s I have full parental responsibility. Thanks in advance john
Johnnyc - 16-Jul-18 @ 10:21 PM
Stu88 - Your Question:
Split up with my ex in May of 2016 while she was in early stages of pregnancy, she cut ALL contact with my family members too, fast forward 16 months & we were back in contact, I was travelling 2 & a half hours by train each week to see my son, however I felt strangely like she didn’t want me near the house. We were constantly walking around going for lunch/coffee which wasn’t sustainable financially. I found out in March that I wasn’t allowed near the house because her 11 year old daughter had decided she no longer wanted to see me. Admittedly I have had a gambling problem which I am trying to cut out (signed up to gamstop) she is using this against me & has said no to overnight access 1 night a week. I don’t know wether to bypass 1 day a week with no overnight & apply for supervised.Post is a bit rushed, my mind is all over the place & im scared as this is my first child & therefore the first time I’ve had to deal with anything like this.

Our Response:
In a case such as this, you may wish to join our Separated Dads forum in order to speak to our dads who have been through similar before. The main thing in your favour here is that you are getting help to overcome your gambling addiction. The forum advisers, may suggest that you apply for more and be willing to accept less, rather than apply for supervised and wish you would have applied for unsupervised. It may be the court would grant you supervised access for a time, leading to unsupervised when various conditions have been met.
SeparatedDads - 18-Jun-18 @ 12:14 PM
Split up with my ex in May of 2016 while she was in early stages of pregnancy, she cut ALL contact with my family members too, fast forward 16 months & we were back in contact, I was travelling 2 & a half hours by train each week to see my son, however I felt strangely like she didn’t want me near the house. We were constantly walking around going for lunch/coffee which wasn’t sustainable financially. I found out in March that I wasn’t allowed near the house because her 11 year old daughter had decided she no longer wanted to see me. Admittedly I have had a gambling problem which I am trying to cut out (signed up to gamstop) she is using this against me & has said no to overnight access 1 night a week. I don’t know wether to bypass 1 day a week with no overnight & apply for supervised. Post is a bit rushed, my mind is all over the place & im scared as this is my first child & therefore the first time I’ve had to deal with anything like this.
Stu88 - 16-Jun-18 @ 1:51 PM
I have been married to my husband for eight years and have a step daughter aged 11. He has had regular (from three months of age due to not knowing she was born) contact Tuesday Thursdays 16:30hrs-2030hrs until the age of 5 and was reduced 16:30-19:30hrs due to schooling and EVERY weekend from Friday at 16:30hrs until Sunday 18:00hrs for three years! Until it was scheduled to alternate weekends. I have been in her life since the age of 2 and have two other children with her father and have built a great relationship including her in everything that we do. Even the the length of changing scheduled and pre arranged flights from turkey as “mother forgot she had a wedding that my step daughter was part of”. Both of my children attended the local pre school in which my step daughters mother taught and I have had a brilliant relationship with her also even taking a selfie with her and my step daughter and posted on social media. My children both left her pre school September last year and she was having marriage issues. My step daughter spent a lot of time with us and amongst other life’s stresses there was a lot of pressure on me and my husband. He had a rough evening and resulted in us having a violent argument where I called the police and he was removed. I had my step daughter in my care and contacted her mother in which she did not answer then was happy for me to keep her child regardless of the situation as she was safer in my care at that time. Me and my husband have since resolved this issue with help and support and are back on track of a happy marriage. However on January 27th my step daughter was collected and removed from my home due to her reasons being “we smoke in our kitchen” which we have done forever and she has even stood in my kitchen with me whilst her other daughter (nothing to do with us) spent the afternoon playing in my garden. My step daughter got to spend her first mother’s day in eleven years with her mother this year though!! In March out of the blue after several messages my step daughter is suddenly allowed to start coming back around to our as scheduled. Then may half term, we planned a boat trip due to my step daughter not being allowed to Turkey this year (another issue) arranged Tuesday to Friday booked time off work to be told she must be back by Wednesday my step daughter did not come, untillllll Saturday I got a text she would like to stay on the boat ?!! So I went to collect her brought her in my car to the boat. I tried to contact Emmy step daughter whom was at the park with her mobile phone not far but said I would call wen I wanted her back.. I could not get connected.. it become apparent I had been blocked from her phone.. I tried to contact the mother re this matter as was dangerous when she was in my care and in my opinion unacceptable and I wanted to know why .. to realise she too had blocked me from any contact.. so I text my step daughters grandmother to pass the message to her daughter that I had tried t
Stepmum - 15-Jun-18 @ 7:33 PM
loving dad whos ex i - Your Question:
After splitting up with my fiance of 5 years I suffered a emotional break down and was hospitalised for6 days due to the shock trauma and stress of tbe break up The result of this being I caused alot of hurt and de stress to my family and friends and my ex I was refused no contact with my own son for nearly 13 weeks not aloud phone calls and even now 3years later im not aloud to be alone with my son because of my behaviour directly after the break upIve paid maintenance for 90 percent of the time and when I didnt was when my ex refud to accept it I want to find out what right I have regarding non supervised visitation I have parental responsibility and theres no history of violence or any restrictions applyed by courts Can I have time alone with my son and enjoy creating a bond with him

Our Response:
Much depends upon what the court order states going into the future. If you want unsupervised access you would have to show, prove to the courts that you are a different person. In your case, some initial legal advice may be worthwhile in order to assess whether you have a case to refer the matter back to court.
SeparatedDads - 14-Jun-18 @ 12:28 PM
Ian - Your Question:
I have no t seen my daughter since September 17 didn't see her last Birthday nor this one missed Christmas.because my ex has lied and the court will not go to proof hearing.the contact we did have threw. A contact centre broke down after my daughter was diagnosed with diabetes type one in may 17 I couldn't get proper training as I didn't have access. Any Help.

Our Response:
You would have to refer the matter back to court, if your ex will not agree to access or mediation. If you cannot afford legal representation you can self-litigate, please see link here. Proving that you are willing to get diabetes training if your visits become unsupervised wil also help.
SeparatedDads - 14-Jun-18 @ 10:26 AM
After splitting up with my fiance of 5 years i suffered a emotional break down and was hospitalised for6 days due to the shocktrauma and stress of tbe break up The result of this being i caused alot of hurt and de stress to my family and friends and my ex I was refused no contact with my own son for nearly 13 weeks not aloud phone calls and even now 3years later im not aloud to be alone with my son because of my behaviour directly after the break up Ive paid maintenance for 90 percent of the time and when i didnt was when my ex refud to accept it I want to find out what right i have regarding non supervised visitation i have parental responsibilityand theres no history of violence or any restrictions applyed by courts Can i have time alone with my son and enjoy creating a bond with him
loving dad whos ex i - 14-Jun-18 @ 2:12 AM
I have no t seen my daughter since September 17 didn't see her last Birthday nor this one missed Christmas .because my ex has lied and the court will not go to proof hearing .the contact we did have threw. A contact centre broke down after my daughter was diagnosed with diabetes type one in may 17 I couldn't get proper training as I didn't have access. Any Help.
Ian - 13-Jun-18 @ 12:58 PM
Jibbo - Your Question:
I had an affair and it caused the split in my relationship with the mother of my kids. Everything has been very amicable considering and I have access to them etc. and I pay more then the necessary child support etc so they can stay in the (wjhat was) family home.The issue is she is against the idea of me introducing them to my now partner (the person I had the affair with) even for now just as a friend of mine and I'm not sure where I go from here. The now partner is not a safeguarding risk and poses no threat whatsoever, its purely the ex sees her as the reason for the break up and doesn't want our children to see her.Any advice??

Our Response:
In a situation such as this where you cannot agree, the only option you have is to suggest mediation, please see link here . Trying to be rational and understand your ex's misgivings (even though there is no safeguarding issue) may be OK in the first instance, but at some point, if your relationship with the new person is strong, you are going to have to bring it up. When you feel the time is right to broach this, mediation may be the option to push for if your ex refuses to discuss it.
SeparatedDads - 8-Jun-18 @ 9:22 AM
I had an affair and it caused the split in my relationship with the mother of my kids. Everything has been very amicable considering and I have access to them etc. and I pay more then the necessary child support etc so they can stay in the (wjhat was) family home. The issue is she is against the idea of me introducing them to my now partner (the person I had the affair with) even for now just as a friend of mine and I'm not sure where I go from here. The now partner is not a safeguarding risk and poses no threat whatsoever, its purely the ex sees her as the reason for the break up and doesn't want our children to see her. Any advice??
Jibbo - 7-Jun-18 @ 2:47 PM
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