When a relationship breaks down, it is often assumed that any children will live with the mother. As specialist family law solicitors, we are frequently asked about father’s rights when it comes to child arrangements after, or during, divorce.
If a couple can reach an agreement about where the children will live and how often contact should take place with the other parent, child arrangements following divorce are relatively straightforward. If, however, an agreement cannot be reached, this is often when the question about father’s rights comes up.
In this article, we will discuss what father’s rights are and what this means for child arrangements following the breakdown of a relationship.
A father’s rights will largely depend on whether or not he has parental responsibility.
Parental responsibility is the responsibilities and legal rights a parent has for a child. Parental responsibility does not mean an automatic right to see a child. What it does mean, is that you should be included in any important decisions about your child’s life.
Mothers automatically acquire parental responsibility from the moment the child is born. Fathers do not. Whether a father will have parental responsibility, will depend whether he is married to the mother and/or whether he is named on the birth certificate.
A father will have parental responsibility if he is married to the child’s mother or he is named on the child’s birth certificate (after 1 December 2003 in England and Wales).
If the father is neither married to the child’s mother nor named on the birth certificate, it may be possible to apply to the court to get parental responsibility. Alternatively, if the mother agrees that the father can have parental responsibility, it is possible to fill in a parental responsibility agreement, which can be signed and witnessed in a local county court or family proceedings court.
A father’s rights are greater if he has parental responsibility. With parental responsibility, a father is able to have a say in important matters relating to the child, such as their medical treatment and where they go to school.
If the father is not married to the mother, not named on the birth certificate and hasn’t acquired parental responsibility through a court order or agreement with the mother, the father’s rights are legally more limited.
If you and the mother are unable to reach an agreement between yourselves or by other means (such as mediation), you may need to go to court to get a court order. A court order will detail who the child will live with and how often contact will take place with the other parent.
If you have parental responsibility, you can apply to the courts for a Child Arrangements Order, if you are unable to reach an agreement with the mother.
If you do not have parental responsibility, it is still possible, but the process may take much longer and you may be given parental responsibility as part of the order.
The court’s main concerns when deciding child arrangements are the needs and interests of the child, rather than the father’s rights. However, a court is likely to ensure that the father-child relationship continues, as long as it’s in the child’s best interests.
If you are unable to reach an agreement regarding child arrangements with your ex-partner, book an appointment to speak to a family solicitor to discuss father’s rights and what to do next.
As family solicitors we advice our clients on fathers rights, as we are often asked by the father what rights they have to see their children. Many men worry that the courts are likely to be more favourable towards the mother, when it comes to child arrangements.
It is the rights and needs of the children that the courts are ultimately focused on. What is best for the children is paramount. In many cases, the best thing for the children will be to have a relationship with both parents. It can be helpful to begin discussions with your spouse, with this in mind.
If possible, it is best for you and your spouse to reach an agreement between yourselves, without involving the courts. Sometimes, it is simply not possible for a couple to come to an agreement without any external help.
Collaborative law is where you, your spouse and your respective solicitors, meet to discuss child arrangements (or indeed any other issues surrounding your divorce), with the aim of agreeing child arrangement issues, such as where your children will live and the contact arrangements with the other parent.
Alternatively, you could try mediation. Here, you and your spouse meet with an independent third party, to discuss child arrangements and hopefully find a solution that could work for all involved.
Where appropriate, we encourage parents to try to reach an agreement either between themselves or through one of the methods described above.
Court should be seen as a last resort, as it can often be costly and time consuming. However, there are times when it is just not possible to agree who the children are going to live with or how often they will see the other parent.
If a father wants the children to live with him and the mother doesn’t agree, or if he wants to see the children much more than the mother is willing to agree to, it is possible to apply to court for a child arrangement order. This order will set out the child’s living arrangements and how often they will see the other parent.
As we mentioned above, it is what is in the best interests of the children that will be of prime importance to the courts.
If your ex-spouse is not letting you see your children, despite having a court order stating to the contrary, a court will take this very seriously. Your ex-spouse could even be sent to prison in certain circumstances.
Our expert family law solicitors can help you with a range of legal issues relating to fathers rights, including:
For more information call our divorce solicitors on 0845 862 5001 or email email@example.com.
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