Children's rights and best interests


All people with parental responsibility may spend time with a child and have a say in important decisions in their life, as long as this in the child's best interests and doesn't jeopardise their rights.

The following automatically have parental responsibility, which they keep following a separation:

  • All birth mothers (whether or not they are married or in a civil partnership)
  • Fathers married to the mother at the time the child was born
  • Civil partners registered as the child's legal parents on the birth certificate
  • Unmarried fathers, if their details are included as the child's father at the registration or reregistration of the child's birth (this means the father's name appears on the birth certificate, and the registration or reregistration must have taken place after 1 December 2003)

A father who does not have parental responsibility can ask for it at any time. He can get it either with the agreement of the mother or by applying to the courts.

Understanding children's needs

Contact should be viewed as a child's right and not a parent's right. The welfare and best interests of a child are the most important considerations.

It's important to talk to your children about what is happening in a clear way and without bringing in your own opinions and judgments.

Coming to agreements

When you start to negotiate with your child's other parent about contact arrangements, it will help if you have a clear idea of what you think is best for your child.

If you are both willing to try to come to an agreement but find it difficult to talk things through, mediation may be helpful. National Family Mediation can provide general information - call 0300 4000 636.

If negotiation fails, you may have to apply to court to resolve your differences. Going to court can be lengthy and expensive and should only be viewed as a last resort. 

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Last updated: 10-Jul-2012 at 2:48 PM