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Unmarried Fathers’ Legal Rights and Responsibilities

Many unmarried fathers are not fully aware of their responsibilities or legal rights to their children following a separation.

We can help you understand exactly where you stand and the legal rights that you have with the aim of establishing contact which is in the best interest of your children.

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Establishing contact with your child

In England and Wales, the law commonly accepts that it is in the best interests of a child to have regular contact with both parents.

Contact arrangements can take many forms including:

In some cases ex-partners have their own informal agreements for contact to take place between the father and the child. These informal arrangements are often the best way of dealing with matters and keeping contact amicable. However, it is not uncommon for arrangements like this to fall apart if one parent uses child contact as a bargaining chip, for example in cases where payment of maintenance is an issue.

Financial maintenance and contact with your children are two separate legal issues and contact with a child is not reliant upon payments of maintenance. It is the child’s right to have a relationship with both of their parents irrespective of finances. However, it must be noted that it is the responsibility of all parents to provide financial support to their children, regardless of whether or not they have contact with them.

Our experienced family solicitors can help you to work out the most suitable arrangements for contact with your children.

Please see our page on Child Living Arrangements for more information.

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Parental responsibility

Parental responsibility is a legal saying that describes who has the rights and responsibilities in making decisions that affect a child’s life. Parental responsibility includes the following legal rights and responsibilities:

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Who has parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility is automatically given to the birth-mother of the child. Likewise, if the parents are married at the time of the child’s birth then the father automatically has parental responsibility.

When it comes to unmarried fathers they only have parental responsibility if their child was born after 1st December 2003 and if they are named on the birth certificate. If your child was born before 1st December 2003, you do not have parental responsibility, even if you are named on the birth certificate.

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How to obtain parental responsibility

If you do not have parental responsibility, we can help you to obtain it. It can be gained by one of the following methods:

If you wish to apply for parental responsibility please contact us and we’ll be happy to talk you through your options.

If you would like to discuss another issue with one of our family law solicitors, please contact one of our specialist team.

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