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How Visitation Rights Work For Fathers

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 20 May 2017 | 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.

Separated Dads Chat Room & Forum

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]
my brotherinlaw is divorced but going through a messy legal problem to separate properly however he is adamant that he is going to ask for visitation rights which include every other weekend plus having the two children for up to five weeks when he is on vacation . I am assisting him but am really concerned that his expectation of annual holiday time with the children is far too ambitious . Is there any hard and fast rule about annual holiday time thanks
bigdaddy - 20-May-17 @ 8:00 PM
Mummabear - Your Question:
Hello I was wondering if my ex goes to court what are the chances of him being offered only 24 hours every 2 weeks with my son?It's a funny question but he has another son who he has Fridaythorpe Sunday night every other weekend but only wants my son who is younger sat evening to Sunday afternoon,it makes me angry that he doesn't have more time with his dad and it makes things hard for me with my work and other children so I've asked him to make arrangements to have my son the whole weekend or not to bother as I cannot arrange everything around his times. I'd rather my son feel wanted and treated the same as his brother then feel like he's loosing out on time and the brother is getting more.Am I being unreasonable If he goes to court are they going to accept my son being second best or am I am correcting thinking they should have the same amount of time

Our Response:
It is impossible to predict what a court may decide. However, a court will never force a non-resident parent to have a child where the NRP doesn't want to, as it would not be seen to be in the child's best interests.
SeparatedDads - 12-May-17 @ 1:37 PM
Just wondering if a father goes to court due to not coming to an agreement with the mother,can the mother ask for a drug testing to be done, there is a police report and crime number due to unreasonable behaviour and the police said this was classed as domestic abuse nothing else came of it after that but the reason behind the breakup is due to alcoholism and drug use Imy all for father's seeing thier kids but I'd like to know of the mother can request proof that drugs aren't being used and is this something that would be done straight away or would there be warning enough time to clear the body of all traces.
Mitch - 12-May-17 @ 1:59 AM
Hello I was wondering if my ex goes to court what are the chances of him being offered only 24 hours every 2 weeks with my son? It's a funny question but he has another son who he has Fridaythorpe Sunday night every other weekend but only wants my son who is younger sat evening to Sunday afternoon,it makes me angry that he doesn't have more time with his dad and it makes things hard for me with my work and other children so I've asked him to make arrangements to have my son the whole weekend or not to bother as I cannot arrange everything around his times.... I'd rather my son feel wanted and treated the same as his brother then feel like he's loosing out on time and the brother is getting more... Am I being unreasonable If he goes to court are they going to accept my son being second best or am I am correcting thinking they should have thesame amount of time
Mummabear - 12-May-17 @ 1:43 AM
I am participating in supervised meetings with my Son hundreds of miles from my home. My ex moved away from my local area to make visits as difficult as possible. These supervised visits are a precursor to a court hearing for regular visits, hopefully spaced a reasonable amount of time apart for me to be able to afford to travel. Unfortunately, the visits currently arranged are either every week or every other week. I cannot afford to make these visits before we go to court. Can I get any assistance from anyone to help with the expense of travel? I am currently driving from Kent up to Burnley. I am currently on benefits. Any advice would be hugely appreciated.
Cris - 8-May-17 @ 6:23 PM
Anonymous- Your Question:
Hi, I have an almost three year old daughter who lives an hour and a half away and I see every weekend apart from one as we agreed I'd have a weekend off when we broke up. She goes to nursery school in September and her mom wants to cut my contact down to every other weekend and some times during school holidaysI do not think this is fair as she will have my daughter before and after nursery and every other weekend and I will only get her every other weekend (friday night to sunday evening) but she is sticking to her guns. What can I do? she is saying mediation but I can't see it being resolved as she's not going to change her mind

Our Response:
If you wish to attempt to resolve the issue, then you should consent to mediation. If you are not satisfied with the outcome of mediation, you will then have the option to take the matter to court. This is the rational and preferred way of trying to reach and agreement, if you can't decide between yourselves. Please see link here .
SeparatedDads - 4-May-17 @ 2:20 PM
Hi, I have an almost three year old daughter who lives an hour and a half away and I see every weekend apart from one as we agreed I'd have a weekend off when we broke up. She goes to nursery school in September and her mom wants to cut my contact down to every other weekend and some times during school holidays I do not think this is fair as she will have my daughter before and after nursery and every other weekend and i will only get her every other weekend (friday night to sunday evening) but she is sticking to her guns. What can I do? she is saying mediation but I can't see it being resolved as she's not going to change her mind
Anonymous - 3-May-17 @ 11:21 PM
Chetty - Your Question:
Im a amazing dad who loves my son so much.Been split up with his mum for 3.5 years.I have him of a Tuesday from school, keep him overnight then Friday from school and take him back at 18.00 on Saturday.I've started a new job of a weekend and won't be able to have him Friday night.I said I'll take him Tuesday from school keep him overnight, pick him from school on Wednesday and drop him school on Thursday morning plus pick him up 10-4 of a Saturday.She has said no I can only have him of a Tuesday and that's it.Any advice please.

Our Response:
You would have to suggest resolving the matter via mediation and if your ex refuses, you would then have to apply to court.
SeparatedDads - 2-May-17 @ 12:34 PM
Im a amazing dad who loves my son so much. Been split up with his mum for 3.5 years. I have him of a Tuesday from school, keep him overnight then Friday from school and take him back at 18.00 on Saturday. I've started a new job of a weekend and won't be able to have him Friday night. I said I'll take him Tuesday from school keep him overnight, pick him from school on Wednesday and drop him school on Thursday morning plus pick him up 10-4 of a Saturday. She has said no I can only have him of a Tuesday and that's it. Any advice please.
Chetty - 1-May-17 @ 8:42 PM
saddad - Your Question:
Hi, I split from the mother of my daughter a year ago. I get to see her once a week but only with her mother and we have to go for trips out. It has got to the stage I want to see my little girl without her mum. There was never any violence and it wasn't a bad break up but she just won't let me spend alone time with my daughter. I don't know how I should go about trying to fix this as her mum is so stubborn. I am on the birth certificate. Any advice would be great. Thank you

Our Response:
In the first instance, you need to suggest mediation to your ex. You could say something along the lines of; 'This arrangement is fine for the moment, but I am the father and at some point soon I will want unsupervised access to my daughter. I'd like us to plan it between us, but if we can't agree we can either go down the mediation route (as I'm happy to come to a mutual/planned arrangement) - but if you say no to mediation I will apply to court.' In situations such as this, being fair and supportive is fine, but you also have to be firm. As the father, you do have rights and a court will want you to develop a relationship with your daughter. Currently, you are doing the right thing by maintaining this contact, but at some point it is only natural you will want time alone with your child. The articles here, and here should help. Plus, if you cannot afford the court process see link here. I will also put your question on our Separated Dads Facebook page and hopefully some of our dads will give you some helpful advice. Please see your answers via the link here. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 28-Apr-17 @ 11:04 AM
deejay - Your Question:
Hi im currently goin through a hard breakup with my sons mum. Ive asked her to allow me permission to pick my son up from nursery even tho im goin through a depressed stage, plus to have my surname added to his birth certificate my question is what rights n qhat legal help am I entitled to.

Our Response:
You would have to suggest mediation in the first instance, please see link here and if your ex refuses to consider this, you would have to apply to court. The courts do want fathers to have a relationship with their child, so unless there is a very good reason why you shouldn't have contact with your child, or parental responsibility (if your name is not on the birth certificate), then these orders will be put in place. However, in your case, if you are depressed and are finding the separation from your son difficult, then I suggest you perhaps join a group such as Families Need Fathers here where you can meet other dads in the same position and help build your confidence back up. Plus, it will also give you the strength to get through this tough time.
SeparatedDads - 27-Apr-17 @ 2:47 PM
Hi, I split from the mother of my daughter a year ago. I get to see her once a week but only with her mother and we have to go for trips out. It has got to the stage I want to see my little girl without her mum. There was never any violence and it wasn't a bad break up but she just won't let me spend alone time with my daughter. I don't know how I should go about trying to fix this as her mum is so stubborn. I am on the birth certificate. Any advice would be great. Thank you
saddad - 27-Apr-17 @ 2:12 PM
Hi im currently goin through a hard breakup with my sons mum. Ive asked her to allow me permission to pick my son up from nursery even tho im goin through a depressed stage, plus to have my surname added to his birth certificate my question is what rights n qhat legal help am i entitled to.
deejay - 27-Apr-17 @ 3:49 AM
Unknown- Your Question:
I am a parent of two boys the youngest being 16 months, and am trying to have them stay with me over night in the week witch is what they used to do. I have them every other weekend but I now live 45/50 minutes away and the mother says it's to far for our children to travel there and stay over night and to travel back the next morning to school in the week put I can still take them out for tea but need them back at 6pm, she is not moving on this matter and we are going back to mediation to try and resolve it but this may go further if I don't back down, there has been no abuse in anyway to me/her and has been for the amicable but mostly on her terms we are both great parents can she stop me doing this and What is my legal right as a father? Is this unacceptable distance and not in the best interest of the children? I don't want our children being upset or stressed in any way and if it's to far then of course I'd do what's best for them.

Our Response:
You only have two options here; mediation and if you cannot resolve the matter through mediation, then you will have to take the matter to court. However, it is very difficult to anticipate what the court may decide and/or whether it thinks the contact you have already is adequate. Every other weekend and one night in the week is considered fair/standard. Therefore, it's a tricky position you are in as you do have contact and so it makes it impossible to anticipate what a court may decide. I know this is not really an answer to your question - but there isn't a straightforward one. You might wish to seek some legal advice regarding this to see whether you have a good case to argue.
SeparatedDads - 25-Apr-17 @ 10:06 AM
I am a parent of two boys the youngest being 16 months, and am trying to have them stay with me over night in the week witch is what they used to do. I have them every other weekend but I now live 45/50 minutes away and the mother says it's to far for our children to travel there and stay over night and to travel back the next morning to school in the week put I can still take them out for tea but need them back at 6pm, she is not moving on this matter and we are going back to mediation to try and resolve it but this may go further if I don't back down, there has been no abuse in anyway to me/her and has been for the amicablebut mostly on her terms we are both great parentscan she stop me doing this and What is my legal right as a father? Is thisunacceptable distance and not in the best interest of the children? I don't want our children being upset or stressed in any way and if it's to far then of course I'd do what's best for them.
Unknown - 24-Apr-17 @ 6:05 AM
Shaz - Your Question:
My ex hubby walked out 5months ago to live with girl half his age(18) who is 5 months pregnant.no contact with kids for 3 months and has seen them once in last 2 months phones when it suits him but from pruvate number so kids can never contact him. He is now demanding kids and will not see them without her kids are not ready for that. So he is taking me to court what rights has he ? Kids are over 11 so will have their say but im worried they will get hurt all over again.

Our Response:
In circumstances as this it is best to try to avoid court and try to resolve the issue through mediation. A court will always act upon what it thinks is in the best interests of your kids regardless of whether their father left the family home etc. If he had a good/close relationship with them up until the time he left, then the court will try its best to help this relationship to continue. Unless you can come up with a good reason why your ex's new partner shouldn't see your children, then it is unlikely a court would try to prevent this. Likewise, as you say, now your children are over the age of 11, then their opinions will count. However, the court will still always decide upon what 'it' thinks is in the best interests of your children. I know you are trying to look out for your kids, but you need to put away any past hurt you personally may feel and decide whether you think your kids having a relationship with their father is better than them not. Your kids are the main focus here and you may wish to talk to them directly and take on board their opinions and ask them what they personally wish to do. Negotiation is the most important way through this. If access is arranged via a court order, then you will have to strictly adhere to this. If you negotiate through mediation, then you at least have room to re-negotiate as you see fit, please see link here.
SeparatedDads - 20-Apr-17 @ 1:50 PM
My ex hubby walked out 5months ago to live with girl half his age(18) who is 5 months pregnant .no contact with kids for 3 months and has seen them once in last 2 months phones when it suits him but from pruvate number so kids can never contact him . He is now demanding kids and will not see them without her kids are not ready for that . So he is taking me to court what rights has he ? Kids are over 11 so will have their say but im worried they will get hurt all over again.
Shaz - 20-Apr-17 @ 2:36 AM
Frustrated - Your Question:
Hi, I was wondering if I could get some advice if possible. I am divorced from my husband and I am the primary carer of our child aged 6 who he sees at weekends when he is able. There is no set arrangement in place because he works shifts and so his pattern is unpredictable so he will see him usually for the day at weekends and / or some nights straight from school. The problem I am having is that he is refusing overnight stays, which I feel are necessary to enable them to spend good quality time together, it also gives me an opportunity to have a break now and again. We have tried mediation but it did not resolve anything. Is there anything I can do through the court system to force him to take him overnight? I am not asking for every weekend or second weekend, just once a month or so.

Our Response:
You don't give any reason why your ex is refusing to have his child overnight. If no resolution has been reached via mediation, in normal circumstances the next option would be to take the matter to court. However, a court will not force an unwilling or reluctant parent to take a child against their wishes. A court will always decide first and foremost what it thinks is in the child's best interests and would opt not to forceably place a child in this situation.
SeparatedDads - 19-Apr-17 @ 2:19 PM
Hi, I was wondering if I could get some advice if possible. I am divorced from my husband and I am the primary carer of our child aged 6 who he sees at weekends when he is able. There is no set arrangement in place because he works shifts and so his pattern is unpredictable so he will see him usually for the day at weekends and / or some nights straight from school. The problem I am having is that he is refusing overnight stays, which I feel are necessary to enable them to spend good quality time together, it also gives me an opportunity to have a break now and again. We have tried mediation but it did not resolve anything. Is there anything I can do through the court system to force him to take him overnight? I am not asking for every weekend or second weekend, just once a month or so.
Frustrated - 13-Apr-17 @ 2:11 PM
My ex and I split in the summer of last year and he is in the armed forces, he is on my child's birth certificate, however, my child lives with me throughout the year as he is based in Ireland and gets called abroad to serve. He has her when he is on leave, and he pays maintenance as a mutual agreement settled by us. However, I am a full-time student and so our child is in a nursery which we both chose before we split. The course and childcare are funded however I start university in September and to keep our child's place we have to pay for the holidays, which we have done since our child started nursery last September. Now he is not happy about paying half the cost of the holidays with me. However, his maintenance does not cover hardly anything let alone childcare costs. I am unsure what to do, if I pay for the childcare through the holidays on my own and go through CSA for maintenance.. when he is on leave I usually let him have her for the whole of his leave, which could be anything from a weekend to 3-4 to maybe 8 weeks. I feel like this isn't fair as his leave is never set dates and changes constantly, he never knows when or for how long is leave will be. I send him photos and videos constantly and I accept his facetimes on my phone whenever he is free so that he can stay in contact and apparently this is not enough. I need advice and I would like to know what the contact should be when he is on leave.
...111 - 12-Apr-17 @ 6:25 PM
Mom - Your Question:
I would like to know, how I need to go about for fixed visitations as currently I am seperated from my child's dad and he does get to see him every other weekend when it suits him. I would like my son to go to his dad every second weekend atleast as he is starting to grow very fond of him and always crying about his dad and I feel the dad should take responsibility too, as seeing your child once over a weekend is not enough and does not make you a father.

Our Response:
I'm afraid a parent cannot force another parent to take their child. If the non-resident parent does not wish to have a relationship with his child, then a court will never attempt to force this. You should speak with your son's father directly about organising visitations. If he cannot keep to days and times, then mediation is the next course of action in order to try to resolve the issues between you.
SeparatedDads - 11-Apr-17 @ 2:43 PM
I would like to know, how i need to go about for fixed visitations as currently i am seperated from my child's dad and he does get to see him every other weekend when it suits him. I would like my son to go to his dad every second weekend atleast as he is starting to grow very fond of him and always crying about his dad and i feel the dad should take responsibility too, as seeing your child once over a weekend is not enough and does not make you a father.
Mom - 11-Apr-17 @ 7:34 AM
My partner has cancelled all contact I have with my son. I am waiting on legal aid decision to proceed with court. In the meantime do I have any rights too see my son of 6 .
Scottish76 - 31-Mar-17 @ 5:45 PM
Zed - Your Question:
I would like to see my child. I have a restraining order (non-molestation order) against me from my ex-wife. I had a restraining order not to see my daughter but it expired in February 2017. How can I go about seeing my daughter. I do not have contact details for where she lives with the mother. Thank you for your help.

Our Response:
You would be advised to seek legal advice regarding this matter as you would have to apply through court. Along with the C100 contact form, you would have to apply for a C4 form, which is an application for an order for disclosure of a child's whereabouts. This will allow the courts to put a trace on your child to allow you to apply to court. The address can remain confidential if your ex wishes it, but it means the court can serve papers.
SeparatedDads - 28-Mar-17 @ 11:00 AM
I would like to see my child. I have a restraining order (non-molestation order) against me from my ex-wife. I had a restraining order not to see my daughter but it expired in February 2017. How can I go about seeing my daughter. I do not have contact details for where she lives with the mother. Thank you for your help.
Zed - 27-Mar-17 @ 12:47 PM
Lol123 - Your Question:
Hello, I'm writing this on behalf of my partner. He and his ex have been separated for almost 2 years now. His ex was always the one to call the shots on what weekends he seen the 2 kids they have. He is on both birth certificate (issued after May 2006) which as far as I am led to believe gave him parental responsibility. His ex partner now is refusing contact overnight and only having them every Sunday because for the first time in a year and a half I had dinner with him and the 2 kids. This was the first time I have ever really sat in the kids company. He pays weekly child support as agreed by them and until now agreed every second weekend and 1 day through the week every week. Can she always still call the shots on when he sees them and also can she have a say on what they do and if I am allowed to be there or not? Before going through the courts I am trying to get as much information as I can on what is the steps to go by for him to have regular access to his children.

Our Response:
In the first instance, your partner would have to consider/suggest mediation to try to resolve any issue, before the courts will allow an application. If this is unsuccessful, or his ex refuses he would have to apply via a C100 contact form and a Specific Issue Order. SIO are orders sought from the family court to determine a particular matter in connection with the exercise of Parental Responsibility. These orders can cover a wide range of issues including who the children should be allowed to have contact with i.e, you. Please see link here. A court will always decide what it thinks is in the best interests of the children and if your partner's ex cannot justify a reason why you should not have contact with his kids, then an order will be placed allowing you contact that his ex will have to adhere to. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 21-Mar-17 @ 1:54 PM
Hello, I'm writing this on behalf of my partner. He and his ex have been separated for almost 2 years now. His ex was always the one to call the shots on what weekends he seen the 2 kids they have. He is on both birth certificate (issued after May 2006) which as far as I am led to believe gave him parental responsibility. His ex partner now is refusing contact overnight and only having them every Sunday because for the first time in a year and a half I had dinner with him and the 2 kids. This was the first time I have ever really sat in the kids company. He pays weekly child support as agreed by them and until now agreed every second weekend and 1 day through the week every week. Can she always still call the shots on when he sees them and also can she have a say on what they do and if I am allowed to be there or not? Before going through the courts I am trying to get as much information as I can on what is the steps to go by for him to have regular access to his children.
Lol123 - 20-Mar-17 @ 8:35 PM
Im writing this for my boyfriend, him and the mother of his child have been split for a while. He was living at his mothers and his ex would not allow there child to sleep there overnight. We have since moved out and have a spare room for her to visit. This has been going on since october. She would come friday through to saturday one week and saturday through to sunday the next. He also had her one night during the week for 2hrs but his ex stopped this as their child was struggling to get up for school. As much as he didnt want to see his daughter less he knew it was what was best for her. 3 weeks ago she said she wanted to change it to just friday through to saturday every week. We said this was ok and so for the next few weeks this is what we did. A couple of days ago she wanted to change it back to how it was as his daughter preffered it before. So we said we could change it back. The day after she wanted to change it again so that it was every fortnight for the whole weekend. We only live round the corner from her as we chose to live close by so it was easier on his kid, he doesnt not want to change to fortnightly. Can she make him? Shes been the only one to mess up arrangements but goes mad saying she wants their kid in a routine, he agrees but we havent changed anything, she has a new boyfriend and i think this is why everything keeps changing. Shes picked her up over 4hrs early for the past 2 weeks because she was taking her to a party. What can we do?
Sam - 8-Mar-17 @ 5:57 PM
Lovable- Your Question:
Good evening Just a couple of questions I would like to ask please. I have two boys for are under 1 me & the father are not together anymore he has them once a week at the moment but soon it will change to every other weekend.He will be taking them to stay with him & his new girlfriend about an hour away from where we live I have never met this new girl before & I would like to know about there living arrangements to I have a legal right to know this? Thank you

Our Response:
You have a right to ask and your ex has a right to tell you what he wants to, just if the situation was the other way around. However, if your ex is refusing to tell you this information, you would have two options; request mediation in order to try to resolve the issues that are troubling you, or take the matter to court. If a parental relationship can be amicable, then it is better for all. However, many relationships aren't. If they aren't, we can only hope that our ex's will naturally attempt to ensure our children are looked after in a maternal/paternal way, which means responsibly. Therefore, if you have an amicable relationship with your ex then voicing your concerns to your ex and asking for reassurance will help.
SeparatedDads - 23-Feb-17 @ 12:32 PM
Good evening Just a couple of questions I would like to ask please. I have two boys for are under 1 me & the father are not together anymore he has them once a week at the moment but soon it will change to every other weekend .......He will be taking them to stay with him & his new girlfriend about anhour away from where we live I have never met this new girl before & I would like to know about there living arrangements to I have a legal right to know this? Thank you
Lovable - 22-Feb-17 @ 7:35 PM
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