Fathers’ rights


If you become separated or divorced from your partner, family law gives a father rights. Initially you should be aware of what is called parental responsibility. If you were married to your partner when your child was born, or your name is on their birth certificate, you will normally, under family law, have parental responsibility.

This status gives you certain rights as your child’s father, that are protected under family law.

What is parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility refers to the bundle of rights, duties, powers and responsibilities that a parent has over their child under the law. It incorporates various things to do with the care, health and welfare of children, including things such as:

  • Having contact with and living with the child
  • Providing a safe home
  • Maintaining the child
  • Disciplining the child
  • Choosing a child's education and religion
  • Decisions regarding medical treatment
  • Decisions regarding the child’s name

In order to apply to a court for parental responsibility, the father will need to demonstrate things such as:

  • His commitment to the child
  • The degree of attachment between the father and child
  • His reasons for applying for the order

It is then up to the court to decide based on what it believes is in the child's best interest.

What rights do I have as a father?

Generally, the parent that was granted custody by the courts will make the day-to-day decisions about your child. However, your rights as a father under family law do give you a say in the major decisions about your child such as their education or any medical treatment they need.

If your ex-wife or partner does not include you in these decisions, you could have a case under family law and your father's rights to ask the court to enforce them. Contact a family law solicitor as soon as you can for their advice about your particular circumstances.

Often, your rights as a father under family law will involve the payment of maintenance. This will usually be set at the time of your separation or divorce. If you feel that the amount you are being asked to pay is too high, you could ask a solicitor to assess this for you and identify if you have a case to have your payment reduced.

Another major area that your rights as a father impact upon is your visitation rights. Most couples come to an amicable arrangement about visitation rights, but if you can’t agree, a solicitor may have to become involved to interpret the family law that governs this aspect of your separation.

Your rights as a father should include a level of visitation, but your particular circumstances could affect this. Always seek legal advice before taking any action.

Being prevented from seeing your children is a distressing experience and as a father you may feel powerless and frustrated. A solicitor can help you achieve the best outcome for you and your children in this situation.

Further information on parental responsibility rights for mothers and fathers can be found on our page, parental responsibility.

Are you a father and need help with issues relating to your child’s life? Whether it is about child access or any other child matter, Contact Law can put you in touch with family law specialists who can help negotiate with your ex-partner, either through mediation or through the courts. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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