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Your Separated Father's Rights

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 7 Aug 2020 | 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]
My situation is similar to @G-Mac Except I have my two kids 2-3 times per week and more if they need me ( youngest has Autism) so there are additional needs for him and extra time. Now she is talking about moving 100 miles away (which I have no say) and I can see them now and again. So taking them out of school, all Of their family including me is within 30 mins Currently, as well as the youngest support network and because of his Autism change is hard for him. He regularly needs me to call him and come and see him extra days because he just has to see me that minute. With all of this in mind I feel that I should have some say in some of what’s going on? It seems we have no rights as a dad?
Daddude - 7-Aug-20 @ 6:13 PM
Me and my partner have recently split and he’s now asking me to sign the kids over so he can go to the council and get a flat. I don’t believe this is going to work the way he believes. Obviously I don’t wanna see him on the streets because he’s currently sofa jumping. Does anyone have any advice
Dee - 6-Aug-20 @ 10:26 AM
Hi all I have a question. Is it unfair for my ex to expect me to use 4 weeks of my annual leave as time with my children? I don’t want to sound selfish and I know that many fathers are stuck unable to see their kids but I wondered if there was a legal point to this? I only get 25days leave which would mean I would not be able to take time away with my partner. Am I being a selfish guy here or is it unfair to expect this?
Bothered - 17-Jul-20 @ 5:38 PM
Can anyone tell me if there is any specific guidance relating to travel time/distance between seperated parents? I would like my son (almost two years old) to stay with me for two nights every week, but my ex thinks the distance is too far for him to do every week. I live 100 miles away and it's approx 2 hours in the car. I'd like to think we could meet half way to make it manageable. I know it's not ideal, but I'd find it difficult to only see him once every two weeks. Any advice appreciated, thanks.
G-Mac - 13-Jul-20 @ 11:27 AM
My son separated from his ex after being coerced into having a baby to get a council flat. They have been apart for a year. She has had boyfriends in this time but as soon as he got a girlfriend recentlywho has a little girl she stopped him seeing his daughter.She is violent and controlling,even her dad has threatened my son.She has tracked his phone, stalked our house and I think she is mad. He used to have his 4 year old daughter every weekend but now he can see her for two hours a week in a public place with his ex and her dad watching.My son has donehis mediation interview but she is delayingor refusing to do hers. He is treated like a criminal and so are we. Her birthday is coming up and he won't be allowed to see her. Is there any way to hurry up the process? Can he insist on his rights to see her without being watched?
Loobylou - 7-Jul-20 @ 4:00 PM
@stevie.dont blame yourself .i am the same I dont see my daughter been 11 years .if I had my time again this is (gods truth) I would have (planned proper and took my daughter full-time And never let her mother see her)because her mother was unfit to be a (parent )her own family would even say it she couldn’t even look after her first son her (elderly parents in there twilight years had to how that’s saying something).i pity the thought off what my (beautiful daughter) went though growing up with her .if she come to me now she would never go back to her mother .
C laurie - 25-Jun-20 @ 6:50 PM
Its six years since I was in contact with my daughter. Her mother just cut all contact off with me, even though we had an arrangement through divorce proceedings that I would have midweek access and every other weekend. The reason she stopped this is that I formed another relationship. I was a good father had a great relationship with my daughter, I blame myself for letting it go on this long, I should have nipped it straight away. My reason was that I didn't want my daughter to go through what I witnessed has a child, arguments and fighting. There isn't a day that I don't think about her. Its not right that fathers are treated this way, I am paying for her up keep through CMS. the law must change we have much right as their mothers on the upbringing. HELP!!!
Stevie - 25-Jun-20 @ 1:22 PM
I apologised in advance if my question has already been answered in regards to child contact. I currently work shifts and Have 2 overnights with my children every 9 days when I’m off work. Recently I have been asking for an extra night during my working week, where I would pick them after work (5;30) and either return them the following morning or take them to school. My ex , who is extremely controlling , has refused , without giving a reason . My question is am I being reasonable to have an extra night ? And if I were to take this mater to court what would be the most likely outcome ?.( mediation is not an option as my ex has refused ). Many thanks .
Pete - 24-May-20 @ 5:09 AM
Hi there.. Looking for advice my brother inlaw is divorced and has two kids one 19 and one 9. His ex will not allow him to see his youngest son and has sent police to him and they advices him not to make any contact with her! He is at a complete loss and desperately wanting to see his son. I am trying to help but don’t know where to start! Any help or advice would be much appreciated. Thanks
C - 11-May-20 @ 10:39 PM
I am having trouble with my sons mother over my son she won’t let me take him on my own now because she don’t like my g f she won’t let me make any decisions and it always has to be on her terms she wants to control we’re and when I can see himonce I have p/r will this stop these problems I just wamt to be able to have my son agreed times without being in her company
Leroy - 7-May-20 @ 4:52 PM
Hi all, Again...if this issue keeps popping up then apologies in advance. Me and my ex split up 13 years ago. I have a child aged 17 and another 14. My ex chose to have another two with her new man. Therefore she has the responsibility of the 4 children SHE has chosen to take on. Whereas I have responsibility of 2 with her...phew ?? So...I have paid her since splitting and losing my job which has left me unemployed for 12years due to her leaving me in a dark place, causing medical issues. Anyway, since our split despite earning zero I have paid approx. 700% more in child maintenance payments since splitting up. I ended up losing all savings I had and in February 2019 I stopped paying her completely! I spoke with the CMS and they couldn’t believe it telling me as I was unemployed I didn’t have any obligations to pay!....obviously I gave her what I could for our 2 kids....to an affordable extent but never (with highensight) knew where I stood legally regarding payment amounts. My ex hasn’t had a penny off me since Feb 2019 as she has what I feel now like she has openly stolen from me as much as she could because of me not doing my homework ?? Is there anyway I could possibly get back some of that huge amount she has stole from me so I can put it to good use now I have my one daughter staying here 80% of the time despite me still seeing my youngest for less than 24hrs a fortnight? I’m going to guess the answer is no but I know for a fact that the money given did not go towards my 2’s welfare. It went towards the deposit and then the monthly mortgage payments because they now upped and moved to Stourbridge and not here in Birmingham anymore. I was paying £240p/m for the last 8 months until my money ran out and as the law states that if I am unemployed I didn’t have to pay a penny and I don’t have that anymore. I’ve lost my house and live with my aged parents now! So...ultimately, are or is there any way I can reclaim all of that money for my 2 kids that was never used towards them? Not my ex’s and her now husbands house and the pre-moved deposit on it. I bet you can tell how annoyed I feel about having the p*** taken out of me by such a ruthless mother of my 2 kids knowing this too! Please put my mind at rest and give me an answer.
Richie - 6-Mar-20 @ 7:37 PM
I used a McKenzie friend for advice and support at court much cheaper than solicitors I have used in the past.
John - 4-Mar-20 @ 12:49 AM
Hi, I have parental responsibility over my two children, age 10 and 15, who live with their mother. I am separated but have a child arrangements order in place that gives me contact on alternate weekends and half of holidays. Recently my ex partner has been censoring/blocking Skype/text contact with youngest son with no reason given. There are no court orders blocking this type of contact. My question is what rights do I have in contacting my children in this way and what rights does my ex have in unilaterally blocking these communications? Thanks in advance.
Gary - 3-Mar-20 @ 5:54 PM
My GF is pregnant and has grown up in the care system I no longer want to continue our relationship due to the fact i have been with her 4 years have done nothing but try to help her get into work etc but have just been abused mentally & Verbally throughout and i am taken for granted everyday she has never worked she is 21 I/m 25 and have worked since 19 we have been through a abortion before due to finance issues etc but this time she is planning to keep it although she has been saying she is having a abortion because of finance reasons she is now making out she is being forced by social services to keep the child knowing i completely disagree with her decision as it is not right for a child to be brought up by someone who has no regards for other people she has stolen money from me in the past and now i want out of the situation i cannot let her have my child as it's not fair to bring it into the life she leads throughout the pregnancy she has smoked, drank, Used Illegal Substances and although i can't bare to think of letting her bring my child up I also cannot bare to Live 18 years tied to this person as my life has been overshadowed by hers for the past 4 years and i just want my life back i have written up a document for her to read and sign which will strip me of any responsibility regarding the upbringing and financial issues i have only done this as she believes she can do it all alone and has said she has no intentions of getting a child maintenance order etc but as a male We all now Women say one thing but mean another my question is will this document be legally binding once signed by both parties I have no intention of signing the birth certificate as i have doubts if it is mine too where do i stand i would love to go for full custody but i am not prepared to go through months of hell for it so i would like to cut my ties i would be a brilliant dad but with Mother who understands the world not one who's life is over if she misses coronation street holly oaks emmerdale etc Please help me understand the situation as i have been kept out of the pregnancy from the start and lied too and i'm not prepared to raise a child that i have already stated i'm not ready for mentally physically or emotionallynot for myself but for the well being of the child when it's born i also feel that this needs to be looked at further in the government as equal rights are not practised where Pregnancy and parents are concerned so the system Is a lie
Beaver - 24-Feb-20 @ 2:20 PM
I'm a father too and since splitting up I been called it all saying I abandoned my kids etc when it's not true I'd be there 24/7 for the kids love them too bits I took my exes other 2 as my own but there is no parental rules we agree on on her end so over time hers got older mouthier more disrespectful I done everything I could for them treated them the same and loved them the same as my 2 the only reason I left as I dont like arguing in front of kids its mental torture and like a lot of us fathers we work hard too but get no free grounds I think the law should be changed as some fathers are better than the mothers and spending even time with both parents is less traumatic it should be down to the children too but sometimes the ex poisons them in what to think of you.I havent saw my kids for 3 days it tore me apart and when I asked if they could stay the night and she kicks a fuss saying I miss them I said well yea but I haven't seen them in 3 days and you will be with and live with them all the time I dont want to be distanced as it's not fair.
Elvis - 13-Jan-20 @ 6:48 AM
My son in laws ex is mentally torturing his child. She has 3 other children to different fathers and another one on the way. He has her every weekend but his ex rings up complaining that his daughter causes lits of problems and issues and I'm putting her on a mattress in the hallway so she cant be near the other children. He asked to speak to his daughter but the mother refused. He's so upset as we all are . Tgere must be something or somewhere he can do or go to. He's so frightened she stops her from seeing him. Any advice would be so welcome .
Jhss - 8-Jan-20 @ 4:21 PM
My ex partner as residency of my 12 year old boy my 10 year old boy and my girl 7 and is dying do the children come back to live with me of this happens
Little legs - 29-Dec-19 @ 10:30 AM
The law is not in a fathers thought at all. We aren't criminals yet we are treated as we are the scum of the earth. The CMS are broken. How can a person just pat £20 and enforcement of a % taken without any validation on circumstance. She receives more than I earn from benefits lives in a 3 bedroom house rents out the rooms for extra income yet I work everyday to barely afford a small 1 bed apartment. She the demands mote than 25% of my net income putting me in a position that either I move to a flatshare or I have to move away from my kids. What life is this broken CMS making our children live in. It's one where the CMS are helping absent fathers be more absent.It's helping money grabbing women extort money out of men. It's leaving kids with no fathers. FAMILY COURT IS BROKEN AND CURRENTLY BREAKS FAMILIES.
Grim Flow - 29-Dec-19 @ 3:53 AM
There is nothing here about which UK laws are broken by mothers who deliberately block their children's access to their father typically by malicious underhand means.
Rami - 13-Dec-19 @ 7:12 PM
@cherry.if mother off child reads this ?.women you stay out off my (business )you have (no control loser)if I want to be a (criminal or a dole bludger) I will (do it )if I want (gods truth )you better stop (following me two gods truth )this is a word to the wise .and I will f ing live where the f I want two.i answer to (no one) this is gods truth .
C.laurie - 11-Dec-19 @ 1:25 AM
@cherryx.if the child’s mother reads this ?.i hope she does (gods truth).a word to the wise stay away from my (house and my business )I just want to tell her you are not apart off my (life )and (never will be gods truth)this a (serous warning).i will never talk to her again (gods truth this is no game ).i am serous person and you can bank on my word .( I will see the child when she has her own house and her own life away from the mother this (gods truth ).
C.laurie - 11-Dec-19 @ 12:53 AM
@cherryx.i found some peace in my life now settled down or getting older one off the two I am not sure.i am glad I signed passport papers I signed for the (child ).best thing now the child is nearly off age so I won’t need to sign anything anymore and when she moves out off her (mothers) and into her (own place) I will come see her and (introduce myself to her that’s my plan )and (try) build some sort off relationship with her .
Chris - 10-Dec-19 @ 9:25 PM
@cherryx.after reading your story .i am on this child’s birth certificate and she went on holiday to USA with her mother and family .i signed the passport papers because apparently her mother was going to take her to (Disney land ).i don’t like her( mother) we get on like (Israel and Palestine).but couldn’t deny the (child)a trip like that what little kid wouldn’t like (Disneyland )so I signed the papers and Spoke to a official women on the phone answering questions to (prove I was the father ).i really had to (think )when (answering questions) because I didn’t have contact for many years and still don’t I haven’t been to (court )but I see her when she is older when she has her (own mind )and can do what she wants without her mother and father in her ear .
Chris - 10-Dec-19 @ 9:05 PM
I’m going on holiday with my children and my parents at the end of December and have been some arguments between me and the child’s dad recently he has threatened to be spiteful and try to stop me from taking them As his name is on the birth certificate, he has no reason for concerns it’s just spiteful was due to a recent argument and he doesn’t seem to understand how much the children would be upset this is a holiday of a lifetime to Mexico can you please tell me where I stand on this ?
Cherryx - 10-Dec-19 @ 10:05 AM
My partner has a court order in place to have unsupervised visits with his daughter at a contact centre, he is not allowed any direct contact with his daughters mum, on his birthday his ex sent him a birthday card from his daughter and he wants to send a letter to his ex but he’s not allowed any direct contact....please can someone point us in the right direction
Sammy - 6-Dec-19 @ 8:44 PM
@deebarsy.i would say to your daughter well I no it’s been 5 years without contact.how about you come have lunch with me and we can talk face to face about you wanting to be adopted.if it was me I would listen to her .us I am a good judge character and if she (truly wanted )it I would sign the paper .
Chris - 21-Nov-19 @ 6:42 PM
My 13 yeqr old daughter has asked me to sign adoption papers so her step dad can adopt her i havent seen her for 5 years can i stop the adoption
Deebarsy - 21-Nov-19 @ 5:09 PM
Can my sons ex refuse to put him on the birth certificate, he as a son who is 3.... from last relationship An they get on great.. he just wants to be his daddy... the law is really unfair to dads who want to do the right thing for there children but stupid law stops them.. he an jus girlfriend was still together wen she found out she was pregnant... he was so excited... now got the family he always wanted But.. then she drop bombshell I don’t want you anymore you can see him for a hour once a week and your not going on birth certificate He will be registered as father in know.... can she do that or is she breaking the law
Gannie - 9-Nov-19 @ 8:59 PM
My wife and I have split from our marriage. We have a 5 months baby..what rights do I have?
Peter - 29-Oct-19 @ 8:45 PM
My wife and I are currently going through a separation and divorce. She is adamant that we are not selling the house and wont allow me 50/50 access for our 4 year old. Where do i stand on this?
Copey - 28-Oct-19 @ 10:22 AM
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