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Your Separated Father's Rights

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 22 May 2017 | 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.

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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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Drew - Your Question:
My ex partner won't let me see my 2 children one aged 11 male and the other 16 female she wants me to go through court to see my children what should I doMr Pemberton

Our Response:
If your ex will not agree to mediation then you would have to apply to court. If you cannot afford legal representation, then you can self litigate, please see link here. If your children are aged 16 and 11, then their opinions regarding whether they wish to see you also will count - as they are now old enough to have their opinions taken into consideration by the court.
SeparatedDads - 22-May-17 @ 1:58 PM
My ex partner won't let me see my 2 children one aged 11 male and the other 16 female she wants me to go through court to see my children what should I do.
Drew - 22-May-17 @ 2:03 AM
Kass - Your Question:
My son is separated from his wife and they have 2 children aged 7 & 5 who live with their mother.Does mum have any right to stop their dad from seeing them without any reason.RegardsJean

Our Response:
If the mother has stopped your son from seeing his children, then he would have to follow the process laid out in the article here in order to try to seek a resolution.
SeparatedDads - 16-May-17 @ 1:58 PM
My son is separated from his wife and they have 2 children aged 7 & 5 who live with their mother. Does mum have any right to stop their dad from seeing them without any reason. Regards Jean
Kass - 16-May-17 @ 9:25 AM
Star - Your Question:
HiThe biological father of my children (one 14 born before December 2003 and the other 10 born after that date, and he's named on the birth certificate but we were not married) has had no contact with them for 8 years and not seen them for 9 years, I had to get an injunction due to abuse. The court advised him to have supervised visits if he wanted to have contact but he never did and has never paid any maintenance towards them. My husband to be who has brought them both up and financially supported them for the past 8 years wants to adopt the children as his own. What rights does the biological father have over this decision? And does he have any rights for information from the children's schools? I would be very grateful for any advice given.

Our Response:
When a stepparent adopts their partner’s child it ends the legal relationship between that child and their other natural parent and that wider family network e.g. grandparents and other relatives. However, you would have to obtain written consent from the children's father to allow this, please see link here.
SeparatedDads - 15-May-17 @ 2:42 PM
Hi The biological father of my children (one 14 born before December 2003 and the other 10 born after that date, and he's named on the birth certificate but we were not married) has had no contact with them for 8 years and not seen them for 9 years, I had to get an injunction due to abuse. The court advised him to have supervised visits if he wanted to have contact but he never did and has never paid any maintenance towards them. My husband to be who has brought them both up and financially supported them for the past 8 years wants to adopt the children as his own. What rights does the biological father have over this decision? And does he have any rights for information from the children's schools? I would be very grateful for any advice given.
Star - 15-May-17 @ 9:16 AM
Pinky - Your Question:
Hi I am a mother got a son 6 yrs old got into difficulty with drugs few yrs back ,I gave him to the father for him to look after he has been in 2 relationships since mine his new partner is overusing me I want my son back and have been trying there is nothing in court that he has custody of my son I have him 2 nights a week but when it comes to holidays I don't see him so what can I do

Our Response:
You would have to suggest mediation to your ex first in order to try and resolve child access issues that way, please see link here. If he refuses, or mediation fails, then you will be allowed to apply to court for a contact order. If a contact order is put in place, then your ex would have to adhere to it, as would you.
SeparatedDads - 10-May-17 @ 1:57 PM
Steph - Your Question:
Hi im recently Separeted and wondering if this page covers Scottish law for separated father was due to be married in July and I am on my Daughters birth certificate apprieciate any advice thank you

Our Response:
You can see more via Families Need Fathers Scotland here which should help you further.
SeparatedDads - 9-May-17 @ 12:55 PM
Hi im recently Separeted and wondering if this page covers Scottish law for separated father was due to be married in July and i am on my Daughters birth certificate apprieciate any advice thank you
Steph - 8-May-17 @ 10:17 PM
Hi I am a mother got a son 6 yrs old got into difficulty with drugs few yrs back ,I gave him to the father for him to look after he has been in 2 relationships since mine his new partner is overusing me I want my son back and have been trying there is nothing in court that he has custody of my son I have him 2 nights a week but when it comes to holidays I don't see him so what can I do
Pinky - 6-May-17 @ 8:56 AM
Ed - Your Question:
I am desperate to get some advice, but for some reason when I try to register you say I might be a spammer and to contact you! Please help,!!

Our Response:
If you are trying to register on the Separated Dads Forum, please contact the administrator via the forum and they will help set you up.
SeparatedDads - 3-May-17 @ 10:34 AM
I am desperate to get some advice, but for some reason when I try to register you say I might be a spammer and to contact you! Please help,!!
Ed - 2-May-17 @ 2:25 PM
garryd - Your Question:
I have a baby girl born last month and I had a bad visit when she was 2 week old and now my ex won't let me see my daughter. I admit that I shouldn't have panicked but I have learned from it and even said that I would have an experienced parent with me in future but my ex is still stopping me from seeing my daughter. What can I do? I work full time so everything is closed when I finish work and I can't afford the time off. Please help

Our Response:
If your ex is refusing you access, you would have to suggest mediation as the next port of call, please see link here . By attending mediation you can try to resolve the issue that you are facing as a new parent and try to come to some planned access agreement that will hopefully suit you both until you feel more confident around your child. If your ex refuses to attend access or discuss the matter further, your only recourse is to take the matter to court. The court will then decide upon what it thinks is in the best interests of your child. The court does want fathers to have access to their children and it is likely to grant you access (even if it is supervised at first) that can be built up into unsupervised. You may also wish to seek legal advice regarding this matter.
SeparatedDads - 20-Apr-17 @ 12:12 PM
I have a baby girl born last month and I had a bad visit when she was 2 week old and now my ex won't let me see my daughter. I admit that I shouldn't have panicked but I have learned from it and even said that I would have an experienced parent with me in future but my ex is still stopping me from seeing my daughter. What can I do? I work full time so everything is closed when I finish work and I can't afford the time off. Please help
garryd - 19-Apr-17 @ 7:37 PM
Hi, I am hoping you can help me, my ex wife and I separated back in February and I have not seen my daughter since then, can my ex wife stop me seeing my daughter as she currently is at the moment and is being very unreasonable, what I am also wondering is if I have parental responcibility for my daughter as she was born in 2015 and I am on her birth certificate as at the time my ex wife and I was not married. I am asking this as I want to know what say I would be entitled to over my daughter having an operation on my eye, my ex wife is saying that I have no rights to have any say so because she is the main carer and my daughter lives with her, I am saying that I do not want her having the operation but my wife is saying it is not up to me at all. Please can you let me know and inform me of my rights and if I have a say so if my daughter has this operation. Thanks
Kev - 14-Apr-17 @ 7:54 PM
Hi I have a son with an ex I work five days a week and have him from three o'clock on the Friday till three o'clock on the Sunday and now she's trying to force me to have him longer but I have a job to hold down and I have him 50 plus hours a week and give her x amount of money per week were do I stand? I'm also not on the birth certificate
Bugsy - 8-Apr-17 @ 3:49 PM
Mick - Your Question:
Hi advice please,My ex has stopped me having contact with my daughter, we've been fine for ages and I'd have me girl for 3 nights a week sometimes more if she needed me to, but now she has phoned the school told them I'm not allowed to pick her up until I get a court order! I've never been abusive or anything for them to have grounds to do it! I'm seeking legal advice but Carnt see someone till next week! So my question is can she stop me going to school and picking my daughter up on the agreed days that me, my ex and school had an agreement in place?

Our Response:
Your ex can instruct the school for you not to take your child. You would have to follow the advice laid out in the article here in order to try to get access reinstated.
SeparatedDads - 6-Apr-17 @ 2:14 PM
Hi advice please, My ex has stopped me having contact with my daughter, we've been fine for ages and I'd have me girl for 3 nights a week sometimes more if she needed me to, but now she has phoned the school told them I'm not allowed to pick her up until I get a court order! I've never been abusive or anything for them to have grounds to do it! I'm seeking legal advice but Carnt see someone till next week! So my question is can she stop me going to school and picking my daughter up on the agreed days that me, my ex and school had an agreement in place?
Mick - 6-Apr-17 @ 7:58 AM
FighterPilor - Your Question:
Hi like his place a lot. Searched around for the simple answer to this question that so many must ask. What's my rights of access before the mediation / court process? Can she totally stop access? I have a 2 year old, been separated 6 months, I'm living with new partner but maintain a flat in same city as daughter in hope of overnight access. Am only granted 3 hours on sat and sun that's all. No overnight. Introduced daughter gradually to new girlfriend, very stable person, both love each other. Now soon to be ex has found this out, can she stop access? First mediation appointment for me alone arranged next week. Help appreciated.

Our Response:
Child access is usually, and hopefully fairly agreed mutually via both parents. If one parent refuses access, then it can only be lawfully re-instated via court (or if agreed mutually or through mediation). However, any agreement made through mediation is not legally binding even though it is overseen by the court. If a contact order is awarded through the court, then both parents must by law stick to it. If your ex attempts to stop access and refuses or tries to cancel mediation, then I suggest you apply directly to court. Please also see link here.
SeparatedDads - 3-Apr-17 @ 2:40 PM
Hi like his place a lot. Searched around for the simple answer to this question that so many must ask. What's my rights of access before the mediation / court process? Can she totally stop access? I have a 2 year old, been separated 6 months, I'm living with new partner but maintain a flat in same city as daughter in hope of overnight access. Am only granted 3 hours on sat and sun that's all. No overnight. Introduced daughter gradually to new girlfriend, very stable person, both love each other. Now soon to be ex has found this out, can she stop access? First mediation appointment for me alone arranged next week. Help appreciated.
FighterPilor - 2-Apr-17 @ 9:38 PM
Hi Just looking for advice , I have a 3 year old daughter , haven't been with the mum for a while , but makes it really difficult , I see her every other weekend , asked for more but got a straight no ... I'm planning on going court for more time with her . I was told by the mum that she is seeing someone ( which is fine) but my main concern is what type of person is around my child , would I have a right to know That ? Also I pay maintenance and half the nursery bill , but have been told by the nursery that the mother didn't pay it after I had given the money to do that and that she has taken her off a day would I be entitled to know that ? Instead of coming from the teacher ? And lastly she is taking her away strangely enough planned for my weekend away do I have the right to knowwhere she is going and who with ? Any helps would be appreciated
Wes_lord24 - 2-Apr-17 @ 6:41 PM
Hi there I split from my partner of 12 years last May, due to him cheating and moving straight in with the lady he cheated with, we have two children I have never stopped contact and never changed contact arrangements it's been him that's changed them on a few occasions, after his last change I have said that enough for the children's sake and their stability and being able to get in a routine contact is staying at this untill the children are older and fully able to make their own mind up. My children are 11 & 6 my 11 year old boy is very vulnerable and has always been scared of his dad's temper due to domestic violence (unreported though) and due to his vulnerability is very easy to manipulate which his father is trying to do he's trying to turn my boy against me by sending message through him and just trying in general to make me look bad. I don't say anything about the children's father to them as I do truely believe they need to make their own mind up when they are old enough too, since splitting up there have been many issues he's smashed my car up and pinned me up by the throat (reported to the police but I didn't press charges) recently there has been Facebook status' shown to y 11 year old which involved violent content such as wording to the affect of "I'll slit your throat" my boy mentioned this to someone at school who made a referral to the nspcc who then informed social services and the police. I have spoke to social services about this and they advised me that as the parent they live with I have the right to organise supervised contact (obviously if this carried on and their father didn't listen to my concerns) I put the social workers advise to their father and that as their responsible adult I would do what's best for them this result in him coming to my home and making a scene in front of the children and him threatening me in front of the kids, I managed to get him to leave my house and recieved a letter from him saying he has full parental responsibility (I believe it's joint as there is no order in place to say he has full parental responsibiity) and that he will have his kids when ever he sees fit and will not ask y permission to take them on holiday (I don't want him to seek permission just to let me no before hand incase I already have something booked) and his recent letter which I recieved this morning says as he is their father and has full parental responsibility he would like their passports and he has put my daughter name on a waiting list for a club when she is with me on a day he doesn't have contact my question is I don't want to stop my children going on holiday with him but due to his controlling nature I no I will never receive the passports back so can I have him put in place something that says they will be returned to me as the children's primary carer and also just to clarify he cannot dictate to me what I do with the children when it is not his day of contact? Thanks in advance and sorry
Fairymum - 29-Mar-17 @ 12:16 PM
Woody - Your Question:
Hi, it looks like my wife and I are separating anytime soon after 12 years, we have 3 children, all biologically mine, 2 boys and 1 girl, aged 6,8 and 11, I want to know if the children are allowed a choice of who they want to live with, as I will be moving from Scotland back to South Wales. I have a feeling my two sons, the 8 and 11 year old will want to live with me, is this a possibility? As I think the wife won't want this to happen.Thanks In advance

Our Response:
As you have joint parental responsibility, this should be either negotiated directly with your ex, and if she does not agree you would then be able to approach the matter through mediation, or the last approach would be court. However, regardless of what your children's opinions are, a court will always decide what it thinks is in your children's best interests and moving their home/school location may be considered a big jump. The courts will always opt towards consitency and security. You may wish to take legal advice regarding this matter.
SeparatedDads - 28-Mar-17 @ 10:36 AM
Hi, it looks like my wife and I are separating anytime soon after 12 years, we have 3 children, all biologically mine, 2 boys and 1 girl,aged 6,8 and 11, I want to know if the children are allowed a choice of who they want to live with, as I will be moving from Scotland back to South Wales.... I have a feeling my two sons, the 8 and 11 year old will want to live with me, is this a possibility? As I think the wife won't want this to happen... Thanks In advance
Woody - 27-Mar-17 @ 11:14 AM
Please would you advise me regarding access, I've a daughter who is approaching 5 years old . Her mother and I unfortunately separated after a 10 year relationship. My ex makes seeing my daughter as hard as possible while also trying to control the little time I do see her. For no reason I see her 24 hrs a week stopping me collecting her from school ETC . My name is on the birth certificate and my daughter carries my surname, I've never missed the agreed maintenance money and provide clothes, holiday spends, swimming lessons and so on. Also last year I moved to property within walking distance from her school!! What would you suggest. Kind regards.
Jamo - 24-Mar-17 @ 6:03 PM
Please would you advise me regarding access, I've a daughter who is approaching 5 years old . Her mother and I unfortunately separated after a 10 year relationship. My ex makes seeing my daughter as hard as possible while also trying to control the little time I do see her. For no reason I see her 24 hrs a week stopping me collecting her from school ETC . My name is on the birth certificate and my daughter carries my surname, I've never missed the agreed maintenance money and provide clothes, holiday spends, swimming lessons and so on. Also last year I moved to property within walking distance from her school!! What would you suggest. Kind regards.
Jamo - 24-Mar-17 @ 5:35 PM
Shelma - Your Question:
Me and my ex were together for just under 3 years split just before our daughter turned 2yrs. Since the split 6 months ago he had her once which resulted in a number of concerns about him having her on his own such as her travelling in a personal car with out a car seat and feeding her things that she cant have due to dairy reactions. He is consistently arranging to see her and then cancelling the day before. I am not denying him access or insisting that it is me that supervises but for my daughters sake I feel that it needs to be someone who is aware of how many products contain milk or milk proteins and knows her and will relay any slip ups to me, which he didnt until after she had a reaction and I questioned him. He hasnt seen her for 3 months and this last visit he forgot and is now insisting as her dad he can just pick her up and take her and im breaking the law is this correct because me and others who know the situation dont feel it is.

Our Response:
As you have parental responsibility and are the primary carer, then you can make any decision you think is in your child's best interests. If your ex opposes this he can either try to negotiate a resolution directly, suggest mediation, please see link here, or if you refuse both, apply through the courts.
SeparatedDads - 23-Mar-17 @ 2:03 PM
Me and my ex were together for just under 3 years split just before our daughter turned 2yrs. Since the split 6 months ago he had her once which resulted in a number of concerns about him having her on his own such as her travelling in a personal car with out a car seat and feeding her things that she cant have due to dairy reactions.He is consistently arranging to see her and then cancelling the day before.I am not denying him access or insisting that it is me that supervises but for my daughters sake i feel that it needs to be someone who is aware of how many products contain milk or milk proteins and knows her and will relay any slip ups to me, which he didnt until after she had a reaction and i questioned him. He hasnt seen her for 3 months and this last visit he forgot and is now insisting as her dad he can just pick her up and take her and im breaking the law is this correct because me and others who know the situation dont feel it is.
Shelma - 22-Mar-17 @ 10:46 PM
seankayz- Your Question:
Hello there, I have a son who is 7 yrs old, me and the mother we split up 3 yrs ago.My situation is like this, my son wants to stay with me, the mother does not have a problem with me staying with him full-time. My question is, if the mother does not have a problem with me staying with him full-time, does it still mean that I have to go through the court process?

Our Response:
No, if you have parental responsibility you do not have to go through any court process. You may however, wish to draw an agreement up via mediation or through a solicitor in order to define the terms.
SeparatedDads - 22-Mar-17 @ 12:54 PM
Jake woods - Your Question:
Bascaly I have a son who lives in Wales my name is not on the birth certificate social are involved it has been ordered that me ex has 22 conditions that she has to stick to but social are still doing adoption paper work what as a father can I do please

Our Response:
I'm afraid your only recourse would be to take the matter to court and apply for Parental Responsibility of your child - please see link here. This may help halt any adoption process. Some professional legal advice would help you in the first instance which can be gained either via a solicitor, or if you cannot afford it, the Citizens Advice Bureau will be able to help. If you cannot afford legal representation regarding taking the matter to court, then you can self-litigate, please see link here. You may also be able to get a reduction in court fees or have them waived if you are on a low income or have no income at all. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 22-Mar-17 @ 12:24 PM
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