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Your Separated Father's Rights

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 18 Aug 2019 | comments*Discuss
Rights Parental Responsibility Civil

When you've split up with your ex it's important to know what your rights and responsibilities are regarding your children. The most important thing is to determine whether or not you have parental responsibility for your children. In the case of married couples, you're responsible for any children born in wedlock.

Unmarried Couples

In general terms, an unmarried mother is deemed to have "parental responsibility" for her children. For births registered in England or Wales; as a father you have parental responsibility if:
  • The child's birth was registered after December 1st, 2003 and your name is on the certificate as the father.
  • If the child was born before that time with no father listed on the birth certificate, but the birth was later re-registered with you named as the father.
  • If you and the child's mother sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement.
  • If you're given a parental responsibility order by the court, or a Residence Order for the child to live with you.
  • If you marry the child's mother.

If the parents are not married, parental responsibility does not automatically pass to the natural father if the mother dies.

Same Sex Couples

With same sex couples, after a civil partnership, you have parental responsibility if you have a parental responsibility agreement or a parental responsibility order from the court.

What Parental Responsibility Means for your Rights as a Dad

If you have parental responsibility, you have a say in the upbringing of your children, even if they don't live with you any more.

However, this doesn't apply to the general, day-to-day life of your children; that will lie with the mother if they live with her. But in other questions, such as religion, upbringing, medical treatment and so on, you have the same rights in making decisions as the mother.

So what rights does parental responsibility give you?

Important Decisions - we've already mentioned that decisions on everyday matters lie with the parent who has residency. But if you have parental responsibility, even as the non-resident parent - you have the right to be consulted over important issues such as:
  • Changing schools
  • Going on holidays with others/other organisations etc
  • Serious medical issues
  • Changing surname
  • Emigration
  • Their marriage
  • Adoption

Once your child gets older, he or she may express their opinions and you may feel that your parental responsibility rights are reduced. At this stage, it is therefore important to consider the wishes of the child in major decisions too.

For more details on parental responsibility, take a look at our guide and letter templates.

If you feel your rights are being ignored and you have parental responsibility, you can apply for a specific steps order or a specific issue order. More information about those can be found here:
Specific Issue Orders.

Applying to the Courts

As a father you can apply to the court for parental responsibility. The court will consider:
  • How committed you are as a father
  • The attachment between you and your child
  • Your reasons for applying for the order

Based on what the judge believes to be in the child's best interests they will either accept or grant your application for parental responsibility.

If you've been part of a couple where the children are yours and you don't have parental responsibility, you can still apply to court for certain types of orders, mostly Contact Orders to see the children, but even for a Residence Order to have the children live with you (if granted, you'll then have parental responsibility).

Note that if your former partner has a Residence Order, she can take your children abroad for up to a month without your consent. However, if the trip is longer, or she plans on moving abroad with the children, she will need the consent of both you and anyone else who has parental responsibility for the children. However, if you wish to take your children abroad for a holiday, it's a tougher issue, and legally you're advised to have her agreement first. (Taking a child abroad without the mother's consent can be deemed as abduction in the eyes of the law. Read our article What is Abduction? for more information).

Child Maintenance

Parental responsibility also means you have the duty to support your children financially. If you already have a case ongoing this will probably be done either through the Child Support Agency (CSA) or by an arranged agreement between you and the child's mother. In general terms, you'll pay 15% of your net income for one child, 20% for two and 25% for three children. However, there are adjustments, depending on how much time the children spend with you. If you move abroad, support will be done through the court rather than the CSA. Note that from 25 November 2013, the Child Support Agency (CSA) no longer takes on new cases but will continue to deal with existing cases. The new body handling maintenance issues is the Child Maintenance Service.

When Does Parental Responsibility End?

Your parental responsibility to your children ends when they turn 18 and become legal adults. However, if they're over 16 and marry, it ends with the marriage. If you've obtained parental responsibility through a Residence Order, though, and that Residence Order changes, you don't lose parental responsibility.

You should be aware that if you weren't married to the mother of your children, you're on slightly trickier ground, even if you have your name on the birth certificate or a parental responsibility agreement or order. In that case, any other person with parental responsibility can apply to court to have your parental responsibility ended. Even your children can do that, if they acquire permission from the court.


To help prepare you for going to court for residency or contact, we have a free, comprehensive guide to the whole process here.

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]
I have a girl friend and we dated for 7 months immediately she got pregnant at the 8 months she told me she does not want me anymore in a relationship all because she wanted the baby to bear her last name and she went at my back to deliver the baby with her parents without notifying me and my name was not listed on the birth certificate after had spent alots of money by getting baby stuffs and everything. Pls what can i do to get my own right as the father of the baby.
Joseph - 18-Aug-19 @ 6:53 PM
I wanted in a relationship with my daughters mother.She was born 10/07/19.I had only been with her mother since October 2018. The pregnancy was accidental however we decided to have the baby.I was fully supportive and started giving her money for herself for maternity wear and signed over my death benefit for her and the baby in case anything happens.I also volunteered to get baby items needed.However she split with me in March.This made things quite tentative regarding my role as a father. (I am already a lone parent for 18 years as my sons mother died when he was 18 months old). and so want to be involved with my new born daughter.However my daughters mother refused to discuss the most simple things regarding our unborn child.Nor did she inform me when my daughter was born even though I had an overnight bag ready.I found out thru Facebook off my older sister which I had been blocked from.I visited straight away and was in quite an emotional state when finding out.To cut a longer story short she has registered our daughter without telling me and has her married name used as the surname.As I was not present or informed of register of birth where does this leave me and daughter.Was it illegal for her mother to declare father unknown?
Melee - 11-Aug-19 @ 9:07 AM
What do the father have to the child if the child has dubble baral last name in the uk
Hayley_joanna - 6-Aug-19 @ 10:42 PM
My son and girlfriendsplit and they have a 8 year old daughter.She lives with her mum but my son sees her every week . He is on the birth certificate so could he get a passpot for his daughter
Tomo - 5-Aug-19 @ 3:37 PM
Hi I have a friend whose partner the mother has not been advising truthfully where she is taking their children, they are staying overnight with him at his flat - she has asked for full address details - does he have to do that?
Dee - 3-Aug-19 @ 4:03 PM
Hi. I am a mum of two 7 and 5 I work week 16 hrs a week, my ex is navy still is for 3 years till he comes out. He works away for the last 7 years away home etc works at present away in the week. Home weekends etc. as we r not together what is the rights for custody etc the kids only ever know home as my house .as home is there !!! Please help I understand dads have rights and I am happy with that but his job always is away with the last 2 years he was away for 6months I feel that I have rights to say the kids r stable at mine and that right also that he come home for 2 nights and I have the rest ? He has them at his parents as he doesn't have a house down hear so on that note I have a home for the kids this is them what legal place does he have
J - 17-Jul-19 @ 11:48 PM
Hi just seeking a bit of help if possible! I am currently serving in the Army, I split with my ex wife around 3 years ago and she moved back to her hometown with my now 6 year old daughter around 80 miles away, it started off rough but in time all began to become good and we were meeting halfway on a friday and sunday so I could have my daughter in my house near my camp for the weekend. This went on for a good year and half or so. She is now pregnant to a baby with a different father and is now saying when the baby is born she is not going to travel halfway to meet me and I wi have to do the full trip down and back. Is there anything that can be done for this matter or do I literally just have to suck it up. Any help much apreciated.
H - 12-Jul-19 @ 11:13 PM
Hi, a friend of mine is currently having issues with his ex wife demanding that he gives her current husband PR for their children; under the pretence of something happening to her, leaving her unable to care for her children. My friend is a very involved father and sees his children on a regular basis, his name is on their birth certificates. He is obviously worried that his ex wife has some kind of ulterior motive. Does he have anything to worry about ?
CK - 5-Jul-19 @ 9:37 AM
Hi I have 3 children ages 14, 16 and nearly 18 in Octoberfrom a previous relationship and now married with 2 step kids. My ex has stopped me having any contact at all for about a year until last week. I've just found out my ex has kicked my eldest out and now living with my parents. My ex text my mum to say she's signing all her parental responsibility and child benefit to my mum. I believe my eldest should live with me and my wife. Where do I stand as they are nearly 18 and I've been an absent dad.
Dad - 30-Jun-19 @ 4:12 PM
hello, wondering if anyone can give me some information. my partner and i live in cyprus (where we met) as he is currently serving. before moving here his contact with his child was very limited, unfortunately the mother makes things very difficult. he took the posting for cyprus as he would see his son more even though he was in a different country. as things have become very strained between the parents we are seeking legal guidance but unsure where to start - my partner does not want to take his son away from his mother. only to see him as we are to move home very shortly, so contact needs to be constant as he’s leaving the military in order to keep her happy and see his son more. can anyone give us some pointers as to where to begin!?
Hayley Dowds - 24-Jun-19 @ 2:09 PM
Hi, I have a 14 year old daughter and 11 year old son, my partner of 20 years illegally locked me out the family home in Dec, our relationship became toxic before this and for the kids sake I had to stay away because she is very abusive. After a moth or so of sleeping on friends couches I got my own place but with CSA payments and living alone I am struggling to start proceedings for access to the children who she has turned against me massively. I didnt abandon them I was locked out and really need to get them back in my life. Am really struggling to cope and would appreciate and advice given. Thanks.
Dan - 20-Jun-19 @ 1:11 AM
Id like to respond to a comment left by Bullet on 5th May. I am in a similar situation. Has anyone been able to advise you?
L.1 - 4-Jun-19 @ 2:34 PM
My ex is seeing a guy who has money and likes taking vacations, now she's making plans to go on vacations with him without consulting me, but expecting me to take my vacations when she wants, and I'm sick of it, so I've complained and she's threatened to take me to court to try and obligate me to take on the kids during half their school vacations, can she she do this?
Leed - 2-Jun-19 @ 3:35 PM
Hi all, hoping someone might have been through a similar situation. My 12year son and 10year old daughter moved away from Bournemouth to the Isle Of Wight late last year. My son has since been in trouble with school and I would like to bring him home back to Bournemouth. I don't think his mother will challenge as I think its easier for her to let him move back ( she is an ok mother ). I plan to bring him to live with me, what im struggling to work out is how to have him and his sister at the same time so they get to see each other. Anyone in a similar situation? also how does ot work with trying to get him back into his old school? All help greatly appreciated, from a dad just trying to do the best for his son - thanks Mark
Mark - 28-May-19 @ 11:10 AM
My son has 2 children not married but see children he is living back at home but we have a autistic child so the children can not stay at our house his ex keeps going on saying we should have them here but it's hard work when there here and my responsibility is with autism son
Lyn - 23-May-19 @ 9:29 AM
Hi my son ex has stopped accessafter 5 year because he is in a new relationship.They split when child was 6months old . He pays maintenance.And is normally allowed to have her 4 times a year for a week at a time. He face times daily sometimes 2 to4 times a day . What can he do ??the mother has stopped all contact. Please advice
lin - 8-May-19 @ 10:25 PM
I split with my ex nearly 3 years ago and have 2 young children with her 4 & 6. I had to go to court to gain access to see my girls and finally have a court order in place. Despite Social Services now putting my children on an at risk plan they still remain with their drug taking abusive mother. Social Services have been completely useless, obstructive and have now begun to bully & harass me as I will not comply with their way to do things. Has anyone else had dealings of this sought or can offer advice ?? Thanks in advance
Bullet - 5-May-19 @ 7:05 PM
Just wondering if anyone can help, myself and my ex wife have split nearly 2 years ago, me and our 3 year old son have a amazing relationship, hes my world. I work shifts so on my days off ill have him overnight. This has never been a issue but now i have a new partner my ex has stopped me seeing our son, unless i agree to have him 2 nights a week but bearing in mind i get 2 nights off a week as i got to do extra shift every week to pay a muterel agreememt in child maintenance, so when do i get to see my new partner who also works shifts. Would you say im being unreasonable in trying to keep it one night a week?I also do see him a couple times a week before i go to work. Everything's been ok for over a year but like i say its only since i have go a new girlfriend.
Carl - 23-Apr-19 @ 7:15 PM
I use to see my daughter every 2weeksfor 3 hours, now I've moved up north with my new partner I see my daughter once everymonth, my ex is trying to force me to sign a Step-father Parental Responsibility form... I refused to sign this form & now she says she'll just get the court to give me a order to sign it, Is there anything i can do to stop this going forward.
Clarky29 - 20-Apr-19 @ 11:08 AM
Since divorce, the ex provides 50% residency of the children and I also provide 50%. This negates child maintenance payments, but the Family Allowance and Tax Credit only paid to 'primary parent', even though no material difference. What can be done to redress this?
Strings - 17-Apr-19 @ 7:50 AM
I am going on holiday and got permission from my ex the passports and everything from my ex. Now two weeks before we go she's threatening to not let me take her unless she's 100% happy about demands of phone calls etc while away. Bear in mind she went away last year and all I got was one text. Where do I stand if she refuses to let my daughter go?
Loki - 10-Apr-19 @ 7:52 PM
My father didn't give his name. How can I have his name legally under British laws? I m sure there must be ways around for this.
dani - 8-Apr-19 @ 1:48 PM
Hi...i was wanting to know if a father is allowed to take his 3 yr old child away from their and their mothers doctors surgery and put his child in his own practice without his ex' girlfriends ( the childs mother) consent?
Titch - 22-Mar-19 @ 3:04 PM
I am looking for any advice and/or free legal advice re: contact with my son and to prohibit my ex wife from trying to get my son adopted by her husband. I do have PR but she has recently attempted to bribe me to give up my PR in exchange for not paying child maintenance.
Keepsmiling - 21-Mar-19 @ 2:40 PM
I have a son he lives in England and I live in Wales I'm on the birth certificate. I'm wondering if I can have my son on weekends with me in Wales?
Dai - 20-Mar-19 @ 8:43 AM
I live in Swindon and travel back to Manchester every week to see my son my question is is it my responsibility to do all the traveling or should it be split between me and his mum?
Davep89 - 15-Mar-19 @ 10:09 AM
@conor .you are in the same boat as me my only advise is solicitor.i had a child to a women and I was on the birth certificate.she fat out refuses to talk to me .she told me years ago that she got a new daddy and said to me you are like Rodney you don’t realise to it is right under your nose I don’t respect you then I was jailed for short period as I sit in the cell I said myself once I get out off hear she can have her new daddy I am done .that was 10 years ago haven’t seen them sence .
Mcgregor - 14-Mar-19 @ 8:28 PM
My ex partner who I have had a child with never put me on the birth certificate and kept me from seeing her , she won’t agree to mediation or a parental plan , every time I ask to see my daughter she ignores me. I don’t know what steps to take first any help would be great .
Connor - 14-Mar-19 @ 7:43 PM
@firsttimedad.you sound like a decent manbut in reality brother I know what you wanted but that doesn’t mean that was what (she wanted) not everyone thinks the same it’s the (21 century) .my advice is get a solicitor (ASAP)for rights to childrenand see your local( g p doctor )for your suicidal thoughts (ASAP)there is help .ok a insight into my personality I am a 37 year old Caucasian male lean body average looking like 3.5 drinks like fish smokes like train unemployed practically technically homeless I have (lodgings)with elementary level off education introverted lonely and bored that lives in my own world with mild disability and speech impediment but we all got something right?now I been trying to see my daughter for the last 10 years I am busted broke everyone is telling me it’s to late and to move on any advice for me ?
Jakethesnake - 14-Mar-19 @ 12:48 AM
Hope there's someone out there that will read this and give me some advice, really need it, so basically I'm 24 and started dating this girl and within a year our son was born, we had just started a commited relationship when he was born he's 8 weeks old, the mother of my child basically f&£k me about, she lied about registering our son she went with her mum and registered him without me and didn't put my name on the certificate then when my son become 7 weeks old she sent me a text telling me that she couldn't do this no more and split up with me without clearing the air, so I actually don't know what I have done, I'm struggling the now mentally with slight suicidal thought as I grew up without my dad and didn't want a child unless me and my partner were going to be together, so I'm finding it hard being a first time dad and missing out on every second my sons away from me, she still ask when I want to see him but I want to see him. Every morning and every night, I'm a decent lad, I don't do drunks nor alcohol and I work as a social care worker so give you a little insite on my personality, if anyone can give me any advice or similar stories with a happ ending that be great Hope some reads this kind regards First time dad
First time dad - 13-Mar-19 @ 10:51 PM
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