The issue of a father’s rights to see his children regularly hits the headlines.

Many parents who separate agree between them who their children will live and when the children will see the other parent. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to agree, especially when emotions are running high in the breakdown of a relationship.

A common question asked during a divorce process from worried dads is:
What rights do I have to see my child?

As a father living in the UK you are entitled to a say in the care of your children. If this cannot be agreed with their mother, there are steps you can take to secure your rights.

The law holds the view that parents have responsibilities towards their children and that it is the child that has a right to have a meaningful relationship with both of their parents. The fundamental answer to the question is that the rights sit with the child, not with the parents.

More often than not, it is in the child’s best interest for him or her to maintain a good, close and loving relationship with both of you is in his or her best interests and a court can make orders to ensure that happens. Coming to an agreement can sometimes be difficult and unfortunately some cases do go to court. If this is the case you will need legal advice to prepare and present your case.

Parental responsibility

The law defines parental responsibility as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and the child’s property”. It gives a parent responsibility for taking important decisions in the child’s life.

Parental responsibility – married fathers
All fathers, in England and Wales who are either married to their child’s mother or have their name on their child’s birth certificate automatically have parental responsibility.

Parental responsibility – unmarried fathers
If you are not married to your child’s mother, or your name is not on the birth certificate you will not have parental responsibility automatically. You can apply to the Courts for parental responsibility or come to an agreement and enter into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother.

Before granting parental responsibility, the court will consider what is in the best interests of the child. They will look at things like the level of commitment you have demonstrated as a father so far, the attachment you have with your child and your reasons for applying for an order.

A parental responsibility agreement would be appropriate for:

  • an unmarried father whose name is not on the birth certificate,
  • a father who marries and wants parental responsibility for a new partner’s child,
  • a parent in a same sex relationship where the other parent already has a child, or gives birth during the relationship (assuming the couple are not civil partners at the time of the child’s birth).


Non court based resolution of issues concerning children is encouraged. If negotiations break down then a referral should be made to a mediator. This is a requirement prior to the issue of court proceedings. The mediator will try to assist both parties to reach a solution.

Child Arrangements Orders

If agreement cannot be reached through negotiation or mediation a father can make an application to the Courts for a child arrangements order. This will set out where the child will live and when they will spend time with the other parent.

For further advice on any Fathers’ Rights or to discuss your specific case, you can contact us by emailing or by telephone 01792 468684.

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