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Your Separated Father's Rights

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 13 Dec 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.

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]
If a father has 50% parental responsibility does he have a say on where the child lives? I'm still in a 10 mile radius from him. And does he have a say on what school they would go to?
Ash - 13-Dec-17 @ 2:39 PM
Les - Your Question:
Please we need help. My sons girlfriend stopped all of us seeing my grandson in May this year. There was no reason for stopping us we feel it was because she had another child with a different guy and she married him and things changed. She has gone down every route trying to say my son was not a good father to then saying he was violent then knowing that got her nowhere she tried saying he was never interested in his child. My son loves his little boy so much and is in bits he can not see him. My son has had still has a solicitor and has had her send letters ect and ask the ex to go to mediation which she refuses. My son went to a mediation meeting other week and still she won't agree to attend. We are beside our self we don't know where to turn. My son only works weekend or when needed in a security firm and has got into debt due to the solicitors bills ect. He can't efford to go to a court with this and we are in dire straits and don't know what to do. Why should these parents be allowed to play God and do this to people and the children. We have done nothing wrong at all but be there and luv this little one and now our hearts break every day. My son is beside himself. Please can anyone help us we don't know WAT to do next.

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. Your son would have to apply to court if his ex has refused to attend mediation. If he cannot afford legal bills he can represent himself in court, as many non-resident parents do with success, please see link here . Likewise, if he is on a low income he may be able to get a reduction in court fees, please see link here . Please also see the link here . Our Separated Dads forum may also be helpful to your son, as our dads have been through the same and similar circumstances themselves and can give great help, guidance and advice.
SeparatedDads - 11-Dec-17 @ 10:42 AM
Please we need help... My sons girlfriend stopped all of us seeing my grandson in May this year.There was no reason for stopping us we feel it was because she had another child with a different guy and she married him and things changed.She has gone down every route trying to say my son was not a good father to then saying he was violent then knowing that got her nowhere she tried saying he was never interested in his child.My son loves his little boy so much and is in bits he can not see him.My son has had still has a solicitor and has had her send letters ect and ask the ex to go to mediation which she refuses.My son went to a mediation meeting other week and still she won't agree to attend.We are beside our self we don't know where to turn.My son only works weekend or when needed in a security firm and has got into debt due to the solicitors bills ect.He can't efford to go to a court with this and we are in dire straits and don't know what to do.Why should these parents be allowed to play God and do this to people and the children.We have done nothing wrong at all but be there and luv this little one and now our hearts break every day.My son is beside himself.Please can anyone help us we don't know WAT to do next.
Les - 9-Dec-17 @ 8:27 PM
G1970 - Your Question:
Hello. I hope someone can help. My flatmate and his wife are separated but still married. She has the birth certificates for both sons. He now needs these for a seperate legal matter but she is refusing to pass them over. Can she legally do this. I should have thought that any document that has your name on it, must be surrendered to you if you require it? An email response would be preferred. Many thanks in advance.Best wishes

Our Response:
Your friend can order copies of his children's birth certificates via the gov.uk link here.
SeparatedDads - 4-Dec-17 @ 1:56 PM
Hello. I hope someone can help. My flatmate and his wife are separated but still married. She has the birth certificates for both sons. He now needs these for a seperate legal matter but she is refusing to pass them over. Can she legally do this. I should have thought that any document that has your name on it, must be surrendered to you if you require it? An email response would be preferred. Many thanks in advance. Best wishes
G1970 - 1-Dec-17 @ 6:53 PM
Goofy - Your Question:
Hi new to this, my ex girlfriend and I split up 2 and half years ago and we have gorgeous twin boys together. The ex seems to keep them away when it please her but I have been to a lawyer and came to an agreement not through courts that I have contact from 4pm on a Friday to 1pm on Monday as they are at nursery. But recently she has been dressing the boys in girls clothing which I think is very inappropriate. I suffer from depression and anxiety through the fighting for my kids. I don't pay CSA to her as I am on benefits and pay for the kids myself when I have my contact at weekends. She will not agree to court or anything else for that matter as the kids arent getting looked after properly when with her. They are unwashed and they both suffer with bad eczema and she doesn't provide their medication to them for it. (Claims they are seeking attention) she moans about not having a life and I have said if she agrees I would have them full time as she suffers with depression too. All I want it for my kids to be looked after and have them full time what can I do?

Our Response:
You would really have to either discuss with your ex mutually and/or perhaps offer to help in the first instance. The link here may help you further. Perhaps, taking your children when needed may help in the short term and then as trust builds, having your kids over more may develop organically. There is nothing to stop you trying to deal with the likes of your kids' eczema and discussing what you think is best for your kids with your ex. Trying to create a basis for equal parenting is the best way forward.
SeparatedDads - 1-Dec-17 @ 11:24 AM
Dell - Your Question:
HelloMe and my ex have split for over a year now and I have a partner and my ex is saying she will not let me see them when my partner is around. Can she do that? ThanksDell

Our Response:
If your ex is saying yoru child cannot see your new partner, then your response should be to either deal with this through mediation, please see link here , or if your ex refuses mediation, you will then have the option to take it to court. Your ex would have to have a very good reason why she does not wish for your children not to be involved with your current partner. 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.
SeparatedDads - 1-Dec-17 @ 10:54 AM
Hi new to this, my ex girlfriend and I split up 2 and half years ago and we have gorgeous twin boys together. The ex seems to keep them away when it please her but I have been to a lawyer and came to an agreement not through courts that I have contact from 4pm on a Friday to 1pm on Monday as they are at nursery. But recently she has been dressing the boys in girls clothing which I think is very inappropriate. I suffer from depression and anxiety through the fighting for my kids. I don't pay CSA to her as I am on benefits and pay for the kids myself when I have my contact at weekends. She will not agree to court or anything else for that matter as the kids arent getting looked after properly when with her. They are unwashed and they both suffer with bad eczema and she doesn't provide their medication to them for it. (Claims they are seeking attention) she moans about not having a life and I have said if she agrees I would have them full time as she suffers with depression too. All i want it for my kids to be looked after and have them full time what can I do?
Goofy - 30-Nov-17 @ 6:28 PM
Hello Me and my ex have split for over a year now and I have a partner and my ex is saying she will not let me see them when my partner is around. Can she do that? Thanks Dell
Dell - 30-Nov-17 @ 4:29 PM
etzio - Your Question:
Hi. my ex has been mentally abusing me for years. I only recently realised how bad it was. we have split five months ago after I had a mental breakdown. she is now using this against me in relation to me being able to see my children. we have three children together. she has only allowed me two hours a week on a Saturday, in the marital home, with her upstairs, too see and spend time with my children. I have depression and early stages of bi polar. I want to be a part of my children's lives. what should I do please?

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. In the first place you would have to request that your ex attends mediation in order to try to resolve the issues. If your ex refuses, then you would have the option to apply to court. The court will not judge you, if you are suffering from depression or other mental health issues if you are seeking help. 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. If you have been a consistent father to date, then there is no reason why the court will refuse access. If a court order is put in place, then your ex will have to keep to it. You may find our Separated Dads forum useful, as dads who have been through this process before will be able to give you both practical and emotional support. I hope this helps.
SeparatedDads - 30-Nov-17 @ 3:46 PM
hi. my ex has been mentally abusing me for years. I only recently realised how bad it was. we have split five months ago after I had a mental breakdown. she is now using this against me in relation to me being able to see my children. we have three children together. she has only allowed me two hours a week on a Saturday, in the marital home, with her upstairs, too see and spend time with my children. I have depression and early stages of bi polar. I want to be a part of my children's lives. what should I do please?
etzio - 28-Nov-17 @ 9:24 PM
om - Your Question:
My wife divorced me last year.She is living in our marital house with my kids.I moved out by court law.Recently I heard that she is remarrying.Can her new husband move in to our marital house which half owned by me?What are my legal rights on it?

Our Response:
If your wife wishes to move her new husband into the marital home and you disagree, your only recourse would be to challenge the matter through court (if your ex will not consent to mediation in order to resolve the matter outside court).
SeparatedDads - 28-Nov-17 @ 3:39 PM
Mal - Your Question:
Hi I'm new to this Me and my ex have been split for over 2 years now We have always had a routine when we were together and since we have split that she drops the boys of at school and I pick the boys up they have been staying at mine every tues and Thursday and I drop them at her moms house where she has been living to save some money for a house and the nights that the boys are staying at hers she has been picking them up from mine as I pick them up from school Since the split I have bought a house in the same area to suit the boys staying in contact with there friends and close for the schools Now she's buying a house 20 miles away and is demanding that the routine has to change saying that the boys need to stay over Wednesday Thursday Friday every week meaning I have to drop of and pick up Thursday and Friday meaning I lose money with my work leaving me in financial difficulties Can she make me do this I have threatened to have the boys every other weekend snd pay the correct maintainence if she try's to make this happen If I do this can she take me to court to make me have her routine I'm completely lost in all this and don't know where I stand Many thanks

Our Response:
There is no right and wrong answer to this. The matter should be negotiated between you and if you cannot come to an agreement yourselves, then you would have to consider mediation - please see link here.
SeparatedDads - 28-Nov-17 @ 11:43 AM
My wife divorced me last year.She is living in our marital house with my kids.I moved out by court law.Recently i heard that she is remarrying.Can her new husband move in to our marital house which half owned by me?What are my legal rights on it?
om - 27-Nov-17 @ 9:22 PM
Hi I'm new to this Me and my ex have been split for over 2 years now We have always had a routine when we were together and since we have split that she drops the boys of at school and I pick the boys up they have been staying at mine every tues and Thursday and I drop them at her moms house where she has been living to save some money for a house and the nights that the boys are staying at hers she has been picking them up from mine as I pick them up from school Since the split I have bought a house in the same area to suit the boys staying in contact with there friends and close for the schools Now she's buying a house 20 miles away and is demanding that the routine has to change saying that the boys need to stay over Wednesday Thursday Friday every week meaning I have to drop of and pick up Thursday and Friday meaning I lose money with my work leaving me in financial difficulties Can she make me do this I have threatened to have the boys every other weekend snd pay the correct maintainence if she try's to make this happen If I do this can she take me to court to make me have her routine I'm completely lost in all this and don't know where I stand Many thanks
Mal - 27-Nov-17 @ 1:23 PM
Can I stop my ex partners new boyfriend from picking my son up from school ??
Safc - 23-Nov-17 @ 9:51 PM
Me and my wife where together for 10 years married for 7 of that years I got 2 kids with her and now we split I’m still happy to see my kids 2 times a week or more if I can and them to stay with me overnight 2 weekend a month now she said that she will cut contact for 1 day a week and the weekend stay the same can she do that? I’m happy to stay with them 2 or more times a week after school from 3 until 6 and pay child support
Hunter - 22-Nov-17 @ 12:52 PM
My ex girlfriend is 14 weeks pregnant , I don’t want a a child I’m only 20 myself , she has told me she is keeping it what are my legal obligations when the child is born and through the pregnancy ?
Lightning - 22-Nov-17 @ 7:55 AM
Tats- Your Question:
Me and my girlfriend split up about 2 months ago she is due to give birth in 2 weeks but is refusing to speak to me or have any contact I don't know where I stand?

Our Response:
If your ex will not speak to you, then your only option at this point is to suggest mediation with regards trying to come to some arrangement over your child which involves access etc, please see link here. If your ex refuses to attend, once your child is born, you may wish to contemplate taking the matter to court for a C100 contact order. You may wish to seek legal advice if you wish to explore your options further.
SeparatedDads - 20-Nov-17 @ 3:43 PM
Me and my girlfriend split up about 2 months ago she is due to give birth in 2 weeks but is refusing to speak to me or have any contact I don't know where I stand?
Tats - 20-Nov-17 @ 11:03 AM
I had to get a court order to get my daughter back from my husband and he refused to come to the court hearing so my daughter is left with no contact with her father her half brother, 3 months have now passed and she wants to see them what can I do for her?
Steph - 7-Nov-17 @ 7:39 PM
Gazza - Your Question:
Hi me and my wife split up just over 2 years ago I pay child maintance for my 3 girls I was havin my girls 2 days a week which we both agreed on but she has lately moved from Runcorn to Wales with her new partener I gave my eldest daughter a mobile so I can speak to her and her sister but lately my ex is not answering her phone she has taken the phone of my daughter because she is telling me she is being naughty but I think my ex has done thAt on purpose to stop me speaking to my kids as when I ring her phone it just rings or she has it turned of all I want is contact with my kids on a Daley can you help thanks.

Our Response:
If your ex is denying you access, your only recourse is to suggest mediation, please see link here , in order to solve the issues between you. If your ex refuses to attend mediation, you would be able to apply to court. 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. If you have parental responsibility of your children, your ex should have asked for your consent to move from the area. There is little you can do now (if you didn't give consent), but you can apply to court for regularised access, especially if you have gone from seeing your children twice a week to very little contact. If you cannot afford legal representation in court, you can self-litigate, please see link here. If you are on a low income, you may also get a reduction in court fees.
SeparatedDads - 2-Nov-17 @ 3:15 PM
Determined Dad - Your Question:
Hi, I have a 1 yr old child with my partner but we are not married. we have recently split up and I would like to know my rights as a Father in relation to how often I am legally allowed to see my child. My partner insists that I cannot take our child out without her there so therefore stopping me from spending quality time just me and my child.Is she allowed to do this? also, where do I stand with my child staying at my house? any help would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Our Response:
There is no laws to say when a non-resident parent can have access to ther children, as every family and case is different. Generally, parents make a mutual agreement, if no agreement can be reached, then mediation is the next port of call. If the resident parent still attempts to prevent access, or you are not happy with the level of access or contact then you would have to apply to court, please see link here . 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.
SeparatedDads - 31-Oct-17 @ 3:41 PM
Hi me and my wife split up just over 2 years ago I pay child maintance for my 3 girls I was havin my girls 2 days a week which we both agreed on but she has lately moved from Runcorn to Wales with her new partener I gave my eldest daughter a mobile so I can speak to her and her sister but lately my ex is not answering her phone she has taken the phone of my daughter because she is telling me she is being naughty but i think my ex has done thAt on purpose to stop me speaking to my kids as when I ring her phone it just rings or she has it turned of all I want is contact with my kids on a Daleycan you help thanks .
Gazza - 31-Oct-17 @ 10:46 AM
Hi, I have a 1 yr old child with my partner but we are not married. we have recently split up and I would like to know my rights as a Father in relation to how often I am legally allowed to see my child. My partner insists that I cannot take our child out without her there so therefore stopping me from spending quality time just me and my child.Is she allowed to do this? also, where do I stand with my child staying at my house? any help would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.
Determined Dad - 30-Oct-17 @ 11:05 PM
Dad0000 - Your Question:
Hi, My wife and I separated earlier this year and when discussing access over Christmas she has dictated that the children will be with her for the run up to Christmas, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and that this will be the case every year. I have asked for us to alternate Christmas day each year but she has refused. Does the law grant me any rights when it comes to Christmases and birthdays?

Our Response:
I'm afraid there are no specific rights. Parents can either discuss between themselves and if they cannot agree, you should suggest mediation as a way to resolve the issue, please see link here. If your ex refuses to discuss the matter, then your next option would be to apply to court for a Specific Issue Order, please see link here .
SeparatedDads - 30-Oct-17 @ 10:48 AM
Hi, My wife and I separated earlier this year and when discussing access over Christmas she has dictated that the children will be with her for the run up to Christmas, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and that this will be the case every year. I have asked for us to alternate Christmas day each year but she has refused. Does the law grant me any rights when it comes to Christmases and birthdays?
Dad0000 - 29-Oct-17 @ 4:17 PM
My son’s daughter has lived with him for three years since she was 2 years old, her mother has now suggested that she wants her back, she is happy and settled, what are his rights he is very concerned
Jackie - 24-Oct-17 @ 10:20 PM
Hiya can I get some advice? My ex told me when she was 8 months pregnant that she was pregnant with my child... I said I wanted to be part of the child’s life. I suggested a dna which she refused to do, but I carried on wanting access anyway. When he was born she allowed me to see him for half an hour, then after that I’ve not been allowed to see him, it’s been 4 months and I’ve still not been allowed to see him. I’ve contacted her so many times and she doesn’t reply. What shall I do?
Jc - 24-Oct-17 @ 5:14 PM
When we broke up 2yrs ago after 20yrs together, our two children (now aged 14 and 20) chose to live with me (Dad). After 4 months mum started to mess around with maintenance payment which halted without reason and the children decided not to have any further contact with mum because of trust issues., my repeated requests to re-start maintenance fell on deaf ears. (The maintenance agreement was between ourselves). Mum has now re-appeared after 20 months of not seeing the children, asking to see them, which I have not denied but the children don’t wish to restart contact or see her unless she restarts maintenance for the youngest child, there are huge trust issues. We were not married and both children have my name on their birth certificates. Where do I stand as the children are adamant they do not want to restart contact or see her because of trust issues and that mum had no regard for maintenance. Mum now says she cannot currently afford to pay after losing her job 3 weeks ago but was in full time employment during the entire 3yr period but chose to halt payment after 4 months. I have no objection to mum meeting with our daughters on the basis that maintenance is being paid and this is not just a flash in the pan. She says she will pay when back in work but no time frame on this and I strongly suspect that she won’t pay based on the fact that she stopped paying when she was comfortable with money. Obviously this does not appply to the eldest child who at 20 is now an adult and out of parental responsibility. However, the youngest child (aged 14) is adamant not to re-establish contact with mum unless she is paying maintenance., it’s a feeling of mum actually being bothered and great mistrust.
Grays - 24-Oct-17 @ 5:12 PM
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