Fathers' parental responsibility


Dad with toddlerParental rights don't really exist in UK law. Instead, the law refers to parental responsibilities.

Parental responsibility (called parental responsibilities and rights in Scotland) is a legal status meaning you have a duty to care for and protect your child.

Dads' rights to see their children depend on a number of different factors, of which parental responsibility is just one.

Parental responsibility does give you the right:

  • To contribute to important decisions that affect your child such as consent to medical treatment, choosing their school, deciding how they should be brought up, choosing their name and choosing their religion

Parental responsibility does not give you the right:

  • To over-ride the wishes of your child's mother or her right to make day-to-day decisions about caring for your child when they're with her

Parental responsibility does not mean that:

  • You'll necessarily get what you want from a court
  • You have a responsibility to pay child maintenance
  • Your child mother's will get fewer state benefits

Stepfathers' rights

Dads do have parental responsibility if:

• You are the child's father and you are married to your child's mother (either when the child was born or at a later date)
• You have adopted the child
• Your child was born after 1 December 2003 (or 4 May 2006 in Scotland) and you have been registered on the birth certificate (registered in the UK) as the father

Dads don't have parental responsibility if:

• You aren't married to your child's mum, unless, since 1 December 2003 (or 4 May 2006 in Scotland) you have been registered on the birth certificate as the baby's father
• You are not the child's natural or adoptive parent

It can be very difficult to maintain a relationship with stepchildren after separation.

Ideally, their mother will recognise and support her child's ongoing relationship with you. If she prevents contact between you and the child, it is possible to apply for a contact order if the children lived with you for at least three years.

In Scotland, anyone showing an interest in the child can apply for a contact or other order concerning them. Being a stepdad would almost certainly be sufficient grounds to ask a court for this, though not necessarily to get it.

How do fathers get parental responsibility?

If you and your child's mum both agree you should have parental responsiblity, then it's very easy - download, print off and both sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement and send it off to the court.

If your child's mother doesn't sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement, you can make an application to the court. In considering an application from a father, the court will take into account:

  • The degree of commitment shown by the father to his child
  • The degree of attachment between father and child
  • The father's reasons for applying for the order

A court will not unreasonably reject an application for parental responsibility, and all decisions should be based on what it considers to be in the child's best interest.

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Last updated: 9 months ago