What rights does a father have

23 July 2020

Fathers’ rights issues can be vague. This means it can be difficult to truly understand what rights you have as a father when it comes to having access to your children. Separation or divorce can present custody and access issues if you have children, which adds additional problems to an already challenging situation.

Sometimes separations or divorces can be amicable and both parties can come to an understanding over custody and access to children without the need for intervention. However, many people struggle to agree on what will happen with their children after they split. This article outlines the rights you have as a father.

As a father in the UK, you do have the right to have an input in the decisions made around the care of your children. If you cannot agree on custody and access to your children with their mother, then there are ways to challenge this using your rights.

What does the law say about fathers rights?

Legally, both parents have the right to see their children and develop or maintain a relationship with them. Children also have a right to be able to see both of their parents and develop meaningful relationships with them. The law is very much based on what is best for the children and fair for everyone involved. This is dependent on several factors, courts will help to facilitate these relationships, as long as the safety or wellbeing of the child(ren) is not compromised.

Both parents have legal responsibilities for the safety and wellbeing of their children, these are taken into account in court during custody cases. For the court to agree to give both parents access to the children, the ability to uphold these responsibilities needs to be proven.

All parents should meet the psychological, emotional, financial and physical needs of their children. This gives them the chance to reach their full potential in life and ensures that they are always safe and secure in themselves and their environment. These are factors that courts take into consideration when making decisions on custody disagreements.

Understanding parental responsibility

Parental responsibility can be confusing. It is a legal term that defines the rights a father has in regards to making decisions regarding the lives of their children. A father’s rights can be difficult to determine and depend on whether the father has parental responsibility or not. If you were not married to the mother of the child, or your name isn’t on your child(ren)’s birth certificate, you will not automatically have parental responsibility. Parental responsibility is only given automatically through marriage or if the father’s name was registered on the birth certificate of the child.

If you do not have parental responsibility there are ways that you can obtain this. This includes creating a parental responsibility agreement with the mother or applying to the courts for parental responsibility. The courts will not automatically give you parental responsibility and instead will make a decision based on the reasons you have for applying, the relationship you already have with your children and ways that demonstrate your commitment to the child(ren)’s wellbeing before this. The decision will focus on what is best for the child when taking these factors into account.

Examples of parental responsibility

As a parent with parental responsibility, you have rights regarding decisions such as where your child attends school, their religious upbringing, their diet and their name/any name changes. Also, you’ll legally have a say in decisions regarding their health and medical treatment, trips away and holidays abroad.

Access to children

Fathers do have legal rights regarding access to their children, but without the knowledge of this, it can be easy to believe that the law favours the rights of mothers over fathers. This isn’t the case, as stated above, both parents have a legal right to access their children, but fathers must ensure that they show the same level of commitment to their children as mothers. If you do not have parental responsibility already, it is a good idea to apply to the courts for this or attempt to come to a parental responsibility agreement. These agreements can also be useful for step parents that marry and want to be given parental responsibility for their stepchildren or those in same-sex couples where one parent has a child from a previous relationship.

Issues many parents face when separating or divorcing

It is important to recognise that decisions surrounding the custody of children after a separation or divorce aren’t always simple. It is entirely understandable that making such decisions at a time where a relationship is breaking down can feel overwhelming. Emotions often get in the way and mean that parents need mediation to make these decisions. It is also necessary to consider the logistics when fighting for access to your children, sometimes it can be logistically difficult for both parents to have equal access to the children for various reasons.

Ways to come to an agreement

If possible, both parents should agree between themselves where the child(ren) will live and how often they’ll be able to spend time with the other parent. Coming up with a co-parenting plan can be tough when emotions are high but if you can come to some level of agreement, the process can become easier overall. Some parents find it difficult to have these discussions with their ex-partner, in fact, it’s very common. However, as a father, if you are unable to reach an agreement with the other parent then there are ways to exercise your rights as a father.

The first step is to avoid confrontation with your ex-partner, present your request to them and if this is denied you can consider involving a family lawyer. A family lawyer can send a letter to the other parent of your child that outlines your wishes in regards to access to the child(ren) and possibly presenting them in a way that is easier to understand. Sometimes this can be enough to help both parents come to an agreement, as a third party can often present the information differently with no emotional attachment involved.

If this option is unsuccessful, then you may wish to try mediation as a way of coming to an agreement. This is where both parents have a discussion with a third party present who is completely neutral in the situation. This can help both parents to present their argument more calmly and may help both parties to agree without needing to take the case to court.

The final option involves taking the case to court and should only be taken if other steps have proved unsuccessful and both parents are still unable to come to an agreement. You should avoid taking the case to court if possible but sometimes this is the only option. If you do need to rely on this option then you’ll need to apply to the courts for a child arrangements order. A child arrangements order will decide which parent the child(ren) lives with and how much access the other parent has to them. Although many believe that courts automatically decide on living arrangements in favour of the mother and deny the father access to the child(ren), this is a misconception. The court’s decision is based on many factors and can rule that it would be more beneficial for the child(ren) to live with their father if it is in their better interest. As a father, however, if you wish for your children to live with you, you will need to demonstrate the reasons behind why this will be more beneficial for them.

What are a father’s rights to see their child(ren)?

 If you take your case to court and leave the decision to the judge, you should be aware that they will act in the best interests of the child(ren). This means that the outcome will not necessarily mirror what either parent wants, but instead focus on building and maintaining relationships with both parents if this is appropriate. Courts will usually aim to allow both parents access to the children as this is what will allow the child to maintain close relationships with each parent.

As the access to the child is decided by taking into account the rights of the child themself, a father’s right is to present his case that it is in his child’s best interest to see him. It is the right of the child to have access to both parents and build and maintain close relationships with them if it is safe for them to do so. This should also be encouraged by the other parent, regardless of their feelings towards the father of the child. It is the responsibility of both parents to put their differences aside and act in a way that is in the best interest of their child(ren). This should be taken into account before either parent applies for a child arrangements order. However, coming to agreements involving child custody and access can be difficult without seeking the help of a family lawyer.

For dedicated legal support and expert advice on any family law issue, get in touch with a member of our team today. Family Law Solicitors

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.