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Your Separated Father's Rights

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 20 May 2018 | 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.

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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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Ive been split from my ex for 2.5yrs now , i found out she had been cheating on me with another guy and since the split she has made my life very stressful to the point were i could have MS , i have the symptons tho not yet confirmed by nerologists. I have been the subject of mental and physical abuse at the hands if her and her friends. Ive seeked legal help to assist with a contact centre , what else can i do as a father ?
Concerned dad - 20-May-18 @ 5:37 PM
Bob - Your Question:
I want to take my son on holiday but my ex won't let me,my name is on his birth certificate and I have hi 3/4 days a week

Our Response:
Specific Issue Orders, much like the name suggests, 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 that you and your ex-partner cannot agree on, such as taking your child away if the other parent disagrees, please see link here . Before you apply to court, you may wish to seek mediation first as a way of trying to resolve any issues between you.
SeparatedDads - 18-May-18 @ 11:30 AM
I want to take my son on holiday but my ex won't let me,my name is on his birth certificate and I have hi 3/4 days a week
Bob - 17-May-18 @ 4:43 PM
Lookingforanswers- Your Question:
Hi!I am a non’resident father and I am just wondering if anyone knows:Does my sons Resident parent need to tell me her address when they move house? (She has told me the area and for now the pick ups won’t be at that address but I feel like I should know where he is living)?

Our Response:
There is no law to say your ex has to give you this information. Your ex is allowed her privacy, as you are allowed yours and a court would not force her to divulge it.
SeparatedDads - 17-May-18 @ 3:16 PM
Edmund Matts - Your Question:
I am recently separated and the arrangements for our 2 children (7 and 10) are still in flex. She is a good but very protective mother. Currently I get them for 7 hours a week. How much time should I be able to seek. What guidelines are they (even in a divorce settlement) for reasonable custody. And any further advice. Thanks.

Our Response:
There are no specific guidelines, as it should be agreed via both parents, or through mediation where parents cannot agree to a fair access split, please see link here . The court prefers both parents to agree and it should only ever come to court as a last resort. As in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the children in question. The court will always put the children’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order.
SeparatedDads - 17-May-18 @ 2:48 PM
Hi! I am a non’resident father and I am just wondering if anyone knows: Does my sons Resident parent need to tell me her address when they move house? (She has told me the area and for now the pick ups won’t be at that address but I feel like I should know where he is living)?
Lookingforanswers - 17-May-18 @ 9:16 AM
I am recently separated and the arrangements for our 2 children (7 and 10) are still in flex. She is a good but very protective mother. Currently I get them for 7 hours a week. How much time should I be able to seek. What guidelines are they (even in a divorce settlement) for reasonable custody. And any further advice. Thanks.
Edmund Matts - 17-May-18 @ 7:26 AM
Wallace - Your Question:
Hi my x wife left my 3 boys with me 2 1/2 years ago and moved to a Scottish island 4/8/11 now she wants them back, there really happy and settled, what r my chances of keeping them or will I be wasting my time fighting please help broken man here

Our Response:
It is highly unlikely a court would allow your ex to have the children back if you are the primary carer and they have settled lives. The courts will only move children from one parent to another if absolutely necessary. You will not be wasting your time fighting, if your kids are happy and their lives consistent. If you need any further advice and support ahead of any court case join our Separated Dads forum. We're here to help.
SeparatedDads - 15-May-18 @ 2:49 PM
Cerioli - Your Question:
I met a girl celebrating her birthday, 9 months and 18 days later “our son” was born. 20 months later we were married and I had changed my entire life to support her. It took a further six months after our marriage for her to move in with me. I had very limited contact to “our son”, it was decided and controlled by her father.14 months later “our second child” was born, I was in the army and we had been moved to Germany (I had selected this move to break the hold her parents had and start life as a family) between the two births. I was involved in a near fatal incident and while recovering in hospital she had an affair.The marriage dissolved. In the divorce she stated that I had changed lied about my age when she met me (so why marry me to start with?), after the birth of our first child I had changed (so why marry me to start with?) and that I spent extended periods of time away from her and my children (I was in the army).She ran with my sons and vanished. I was advised by a solicitor not to pay maintenance and this would force contact. This tactic worked as months later I was contacted for maintenance. This I daughter advice about via the CSA and I gave her the agreed amount every time I saw “our sons”. The visits soon stopped, with only three visits over two years. She had gone to the CSA and stated that I had not paid her a penny since the separation. Money was deducted at source, an excessive amount was taken from my pay and I did not have money to pay direct debits; this resulted in a debt management plan and near bankruptcy (13 years on and I am still paying the debt).I had no contact whatsoever, I had attempted every few months (as harassment was constantly threatened) and letters were refused. 8 years later I was medically discharged from the army and received a protected medical pension. Not happy with this I was taken to court. This was the first contact I had, evidence provided had been taken from Facebook (proving she could have contacted me herself, but chose not to), my mothers contact details were given (again, no contact was attempted). The courts acted in her favour, however, stated contact had to be maintened. this did not happen. In ten years I have not had any contact with her children and every response they are referred to as “her children”, I always state “our sons”.In court I was ordered to contact her family to attempt to re-establish contact. Her brother is a mental health nurse and has done everything he can to ensure that I do not have contact with the children. This against the nursing code of conduct, I am disabled and a victim of abuse from this nurse, as he has removed my parental rights. So I have supported her children with no contact allowed for ten years and every time I attempt contact I’m threatened with harassment or ignored.How can this be right?How can “the system” allow this kind of abuse?I have paid in excess of £35,000 since I last had any contact whatsoever. Am I a

Our Response:
Firstly, no solicitor should ever advise that you do not pay child maintenance. Every non-resident parent, by law is responsible for helping to support their children on a day-to-day basis whether they see their children or not. Contact and child maintenance are not dependent on one another and a court would never condone a parent using money as a form of bribery. If a court order is in place that says you should have contact, then the court order still applies and you should be given access. If your ex has breached the order, then you would have to refer the matter back to court, please see link here. Ten years is a long time to let this drift. As soon as your ex breached the order, then you should have referred the matter back to court. Your only option remaining still is to refer the matter back to court. If you cannot afford legal fees, then you can self-litigate, please see link here. As in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the children in question. The court will always put the children’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order.
SeparatedDads - 15-May-18 @ 10:58 AM
Misty - Your Question:
Hi I'm a mother recently been asked away with kids by my friend and his child in UK. My ex saying his child can't go as I'm going with someone else. Is he able to do this?? I have said when he's mentioned plans about going away it's fine and don't ask questions about who's going etc as I feel she's with her dad so she's safe don't need to know anything other than that.

Our Response:
You must get the permission of everyone with parental responsibility for a child or from a court before taking the child abroad, please see link here.
SeparatedDads - 14-May-18 @ 12:32 PM
I met a girl celebrating her birthday, 9 months and 18 days later “our son” was born. 20 months later we were married and I had changed my entire life to support her. It took a further six months after our marriage for her to move in with me. I had very limited contact to “our son”, it was decided and controlled by her father. 14 months later “our second child” was born, I was in the army and we had been moved to Germany (I had selected this move to break the hold her parents had and start life as a family) between the two births. I was involved in a near fatal incident and while recovering in hospital she had an affair. The marriage dissolved. In the divorce she stated that I had changed lied about my age when she met me (so why marry me to start with?), after the birth of our first child I had changed (so why marry me to start with?) and that I spent extended periods of time away from her and my children (I was in the army). She ran with my sons and vanished. I was advised by a solicitor not to pay maintenance and this would force contact. This tactic worked as months later I was contacted for maintenance. This I daughter advice about via the CSA and I gave her the agreed amount every time I saw “our sons”. The visits soon stopped, with only three visits over two years. She had gone to the CSA and stated that I had not paid her a penny since the separation. Money was deducted at source, an excessive amount was taken from my pay and I did not have money to pay direct debits; this resulted in a debt management plan and near bankruptcy (13 years on and I am still paying the debt). I had no contact whatsoever, I had attempted every few months (as harassment was constantly threatened) and letters were refused. 8 years later I was medically discharged from the army and received a protected medical pension. Not happy with this I was taken to court. This was the first contact I had, evidence provided had been taken from Facebook (proving she could have contacted me herself, but chose not to), my mothers contact details were given (again, no contact was attempted). The courts acted in her favour, however, stated contact had to be maintened... this did not happen. In ten years I have not had any contact with her children and every response they are referred to as “her children”, I always state “our sons”. In court I was ordered to contact her family to attempt to re-establish contact. Her brother is a mental health nurse and has done everything he can to ensure that I do not have contact with the children. This against the nursing code of conduct, I am disabled and a victim of abuse from this nurse, as he has removed my parental rights. So I have supported her children with no contact allowed for ten years and every time I attempt contact I’m threatened with harassment or ignored. How can this be right? How can “the system” allow this kind of abuse? I have paid in excess of £35,000 since I last had any contact whatsoever. Am I a
Cerioli - 14-May-18 @ 10:30 AM
Hi I'm a mother recently been asked away with kids by my friend and his child in UK. My ex saying his child can't go as I'm going with someone else. Is he able to do this?? I have said when he's mentioned plans about going away it's fine and don't ask questions about who's going etc as I feel she's with her dad so she's safe don't need to know anything other than that.
Misty - 12-May-18 @ 1:44 PM
Kenzo - Your Question:
Hi I have a wee boy who is 3 am not his birth dad but been there since was born he calls me dad and now's me as dad now his mum has stop me from seeing him I still pay money as well for him can you tell me what my rights are

Our Response:
Your only option would be to apply to court. You may wish to seek legal advice, as if you are not the biological father then it will be more difficult to put together a case. However, it is possible if you have had continual contact througout the child's life and he knows you as his father.
SeparatedDads - 11-May-18 @ 3:02 PM
Hi my x wife left my 3 boys with me 2 1/2 years ago and moved to a Scottish island 4/8/11 now she wants them back, there really happy and settled, what r my chances of keeping them or will I be wasting my time fighting please help broken man here
Wallace - 11-May-18 @ 6:30 AM
Hi i have a wee boy who is 3 am not his birth dad but been there since was born he calls me dad and now's me as dad now his mum has stop me from seeing him I still pay money as well for him can you tell me what my rights are
Kenzo - 10-May-18 @ 11:57 PM
HeartbrokenDad - Your Question:
Hi my partner has just told me she wants to live on the other side of the country, and is taking our 2 year old daughter, please can you tell me what rights I have, I work full time and want custody of my daughter, I can give her a home and my family can support with child care. We are not married. Thanks

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. However, it is rare for a court (you would have to take the matter to court if your ex does not agree with your wishes), to hand a child over from one parent to another without good reason. 'Good reason' would mean your ex was incapable of being the primary carer of your child. 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. Consistency and parental stability for the child are considered important. If you are working full-time and you do not have general day-to-day care of your child. Plus, if the mother is perfectly capable of taking care of your child, it is highly unlikely a court would agree to moving your child's home. You may be able to challenge the move, via a Specific Issue Order, please see link here . If the court can see no valid reason why your ex wishes to move out of the area, then you may have a case, especially if the court thinks she is making the move as a deliberate attempt to thwart access. You may wish to seek legal advice to see whether you have a case.
SeparatedDads - 4-May-18 @ 11:28 AM
@heartbroken dad.I was like you with my daughter but its been years for me but.get a solicitor Now don't wait or dwell in self pity .they will get you rights bro to your little girl you can even but a stop to the move though the courts depending.but you will get rights gods truth.I didn't fight for my rights don't be like me you will regret it .I know I do but I don't dwell on that anymore eats up inside .I made the choice I must live with it but I know her mother look after her she is good mum and who knows maybe I will even see her again one day if I don't I don'tI made my peace with it and don't dwell on it .it is what is now.
c.laurie - 3-May-18 @ 9:49 PM
Hi my partner has just told me she wants to live on the other side of the country, and is taking our 2 year old daughter, please can you tell me what rights I have, I work full time and want custody of my daughter,I can give her a home and my family can support with child care. We are not married. Thanks
HeartbrokenDad - 3-May-18 @ 8:03 PM
Hello I am a mother who wants to share custody with my daughters father. I am the primary caretaker and belays Csa. His name is not on the birth certificate, what are my options? I have had to pay out over £20,000 over the last 5 years while he has to only pay £75 a month according to CSA this cannot be fair. M
Tss - 27-Apr-18 @ 11:26 PM
Will have to disagree with separateddads on what they said to paul c. As long as you give mum plenty of notice there should be no problem. If you are paying cms then this covers the cost of the day 2day of your child so they keep telling me...
Batmanreturns - 27-Apr-18 @ 5:04 PM
Sam123 - Your Question:
Advice please. I have three children with my ex-partner. I see the older two every other weekend for the full weekend. Sunday’s on the weekend I don’t have them overnight. My ex will not let me take the youngest. Stating that if I wish to see him I have to visit him at her house.Please help. I am on the birth certificate. Have parental rights. Yet she will not let me leave her house with him. But all is okay with the younger two.

Our Response:
You would have to suggest mediation to your ex and if she refuses apply to court for a contact order, please see link here.
SeparatedDads - 27-Apr-18 @ 2:00 PM
JayJay85 - Your Question:
Hi,my daughter was born 30th December 2015 and my name is on the birth certificate but my ex gave her last name to my daughter and not mine can I change it to my last name?and now she’s just over 2 and her mum is getting her christened without telling me so do I have a say in it?

Our Response:
The decision regarding what surname to register your child under is up to the mother. You do not have any legal say regarding the mother deciding to baptise your child. Any disagreements you have should be resolved between you, via mediation (please see link here ) or as a last resort, court.
SeparatedDads - 26-Apr-18 @ 3:00 PM
Sunny - Your Question:
Hi I m father , I have child contact case in East london family court I m student here I Don't have work rights at the moment even I don't have money but my child contact case in East london family court please help me I m soooooooo worried about this

Our Response:
If you cannot afford legal representation, you can self-litigate, please see link here. If you are on a low income or have no income, you also may get a reduction in court fees, please see link here . If you need extra help and guidance, then our Separated Dads forum advisers can help you.
SeparatedDads - 26-Apr-18 @ 2:56 PM
Whopper - Your Question:
Just an enquiry about my new partner of a year now. It’s concerning her ex and their kids, I was just wondering whether the ex has any right or say in whi his kids live with?? Obviously I want them to live with me and the mother (my partner) but can he have a right in saying no?? They have been split up for 5 years now and hasn’t lived with them for the same duration and he sees them from time to time but also pays no maintenance for them. Thank you, Josh

Our Response:
Your partner's ex can challenge the decision yes, either to your partner directly, through mediation or as a last resort court. However, if your partner's ex takes the matter to court he would have to have a very good/provable reason regarding why your partner should not have residency of the children. It is rare that a court will take the children from one parent and hand them over to the other unless absolutely necessary. So, if your partner is the usual day-to-day carer of her children, then it is likely a court would allow this to continue. It would be a long road to court. The courts prefer to have such a matter resolved mutually or via mediation.
SeparatedDads - 26-Apr-18 @ 10:47 AM
Hi,my daughter was born 30th December 2015 and my name is on the birth certificate but my ex gave her last name to my daughter and not mine can I change it to my last name?and now she’s just over 2 and her mum is getting her christened without telling me so do I have a say in it?
JayJay85 - 25-Apr-18 @ 10:21 PM
Hi I m father , I have child contact case in East london family court I m student here I Don't have work rights at the moment even I don't have money but my child contact case in East london family court please help me I m soooooooo worried about this
Sunny - 25-Apr-18 @ 10:04 PM
Just an enquiry about my new partner of a year now. It’s concerning her ex and their kids, I was just wondering whether the ex has any right or say in whi his kids live with?? Obviously I want them to live with me and the mother (my partner) but can he have a right in saying no?? They have been split up for 5 years now and hasn’t lived with them for the same duration and he sees them from time to time but also pays no maintenance for them. Thank you, Josh
Whopper - 25-Apr-18 @ 12:59 PM
Advice please. I have three children with my ex-partner. I see the older two every other weekend for the full weekend. Sunday’s on the weekend I don’t have them overnight. My ex will not let me take the youngest. Stating that if I wish to see him I have to visit him at her house. Please help. I am on the birth certificate. Have parental rights. Yet she will not let me leave her house with him. But all is okay with the younger two.
Sam123 - 20-Apr-18 @ 2:14 PM
Paul C - Your Question:
I got divorced from my controlling ex over 2 years ago and we have 2 children that I see 2-3 times a week.I have just told her that I am going on holiday for a week in May (my first holiday in the 2 and a half years since we split). I told her that she would need to get childcare for the days when I normally see the children. She hit the roof and said it was my responsibility to get provide childcare on those days as they are the days when I look after them. What is the legal situation here. Whose responsibility is it to sort out the childcare? I take days off work to look after the kids during the holiday so surely it's reasonable to expect that she can take time off for me to go away?

Our Response:
There is no 'legal' situation here - it should be agreed between you. However, if you normally have the children on those particular days, it is not up to your ex to supplement your holiday by paying for and/or arranging childcare. As the children's co-parent, it is theoretically your responsibility.
SeparatedDads - 20-Apr-18 @ 12:28 PM
M Wolek - Your Question:
Advice please.Im recently divorced from narcissistic controlling woman. We have 50/50 custody over children. Last weekend my 4yo become ill during her shift. Next day, on my shift she emailed me at 6am asking how is our son. I haven’t seen her mail till 10am, responded 10.34am. She was already calling the police and now the whole week stacking me and accusing of parental alienation.What are my obligations to inform her on my son condition. I divorced her for the reason that I could not be her servant any more. Now she is abusing me believing my obligation is to report her everything immediately. I believe I’m providing best care in my time. How does my rights look here, advice please? I appreciate

Our Response:
There are no rules or regulations governing what you should do with regards to parental responsibility. Much is based on gut instinct and always thinking and acting regarding what you think is in the best interests of your children. Anything you disagree on should be resolved via discussion and/or mediation in order to try to resolve the situation between you. However, there will always be times when parents fall out and/or disagree, such is life. If either of you can attempt to resolve this without any game-playing, then this will help all concerned.
SeparatedDads - 17-Apr-18 @ 2:08 PM
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