What rights does a father have to see his child?

Many fathers following separation or divorce often hold the opinion that English Law favours mothers when matters concerning child contact and child custody arise. This often leads many fathers to believe that they do not have any rights to seeing their children.

A father living in the UK is entitled to have a say in the care of their child. If this cannot be agreed with the mother, then the father can take steps to secure their rights to see their children. So exactly what rights does a father have to see his child?

Fathers rights over child are as much rights as a mother to see their child

The law holds the view that parents have responsibilities towards their children and that it is the child that has a right to have an ongoing and meaningful relationship with both of the parents. The court will usually take the child’s right to a relationship with both parents seriously as long as this is in the best interests and welfare of the child. A fathers rights over child are therefore just as much as the mother in the eyes of the law.

Many separating parents are often unable to reach an agreement between them on how much contact a father will have with the child due to the tensions and issued following a separation. In such circumstances the father may need to make an application to the family court to legally obtain contact with his child.

What rights do fathers have UK?

The general rule in England and Wales is that it is the child’s right to have access to both parents. Both the mother and the father have a right to care for the welfare of their child as well being responsible for their upbringing their child by providing them with food, shelter and clothes. However, a fathers rights over a child can vary. These depend on whether the father is married or unmarried and whether the father is named on the child’s birth certificate or whether or not the father has parental responsibility. Our family law specialists will consider in details the rights of father under different circumstances.

What rights does a father have to see his child during marriage?

Fathers rights over a child during the course of the marriage are the same as the mother. When a father is married to his child’s mother the English courts presume, he is the biological father. Therefore, both the mother and the father have the right to share legal and physical custody of the child. Many fathers often wonder what rights does a father have to see his child during marriage. A married father shares equal custody rights with the mother. Until a court order confirms otherwise the father has a right to equal custody of the child. If the child is born into the marriage then the father has automatic parental responsibility over the child.  Based on this a married fathers rights over a child include the rights to make decisions concerning the legal matters, as well as educational, health and welfare and religious matters. A father’s rights over a child will also require him to provide food, clothes and shelter for his child.

Courts can often request a marriage certificate or birth certificate with the father’s name listed on it as evidence in a hearing concerning child arrangement. This can act as evidence to show the father’s involvement in the child’s life since birth and help show the child’s past and present relationship with the father. This can be very crucial when determining child arrangement and child custody given that the courts want to see the relationship the father has had with their child and how this impacts the welfare of the child.

Fathers’ rights over child are as much rights as a mother to see their child

The law holds the view that parents have responsibilities towards their children and that it is the child that has a right to have an ongoing and meaningful relationship with both of the parents. The court will usually take the child’s right to a relationship with both parents seriously as long as this is in the best interests and welfare of the child. A fathers rights over child are therefore just as much as the mother in the eyes of the law.

 

Many separating parents are often unable to reach an agreement between them on how much contact a father will have with the child due to the tensions and issued following a separation. In such circumstances the father may need to make an application to the family court to legally obtain contact with his child.

What rights does a father have to see his child after separation?

A child has a right to see their father and have an ongoing relationship with the father. The mother should encourage the child to see the father and enjoy time with them. A father has just as much right to have contact with the child as the mother.

A father who was married to the mother or was listed on the birth certificate has parental responsibility over a child. The parental responsibility is not lost by the father when they separate or divorce from the mother. When parents separate ideally an agreement should be reached on co-parenting together, if possible.

If parents are unable to reach an agreement, they should consult mediation or legal advice. Quite often assistance from legal advisers could lead to an agreement being made in relation to a father seeing their child. If an amicable agreement cannot be reached, then a father who was married to the mother or named on the birth certificate will need to make an application to the court to obtain fathers rights over child.

Can a mother stop a father from seeing his child?

No unless there are special circumstances. Neither parent has rights to restrict the other parent from seeing their child. The only exception to this rule is where the welfare of a child may be at risk. If there is a possibility that the child is at risk of harm the mother can stop a father from seeing his child.

In order to restrict a father’s access to a child the mother must prove to the court that there is a risk to the welfare of a child. In such circumstances the mother may restrict access or decide on:

  • How long you can see the child
  • When you can see the child
  • How you see them, i.e. direct contact or supervised contact, and
  • Whether you can see the child at all.

A mother may restrict access if there is any concerns surrounding the father which relate to drugs, alcohol, criminal behaviour or abuse.

Can a mother remove fathers rights over child?

A mother can remove a fathers rights over the child if the father is not the biological father of her child. In order for the mother to prevent the father from having any rights the father must also not be named on the birth certificate of the child or have been married to the mother at the time of the birth of the child.

In contrast if a father has parental responsibility over a child by virtue of being married to the mother at the time of the birth, is named on the birth certificate or has acquired parental responsibility through the court the mother cannot remove a father’s rights.

A mother may only restrict or remove a father’s rights who has parental responsibility if the child is in danger of physical or psychological danger. In such a situation a mother can do what is necessary to protect the child. The mother can also go to court and ask for an order to prevent the father from seeing the child.

The courts will only remove a father’s rights where there is an exceptional situation or a decision is need to protect the child’s interests. In such circumstances a court may also remove the fathers parental responsibility which would result in the father losing all his rights over the child.

Do Unmarried fathers have rights?

Unmarried fathers do not automatically obtain parental responsibility over a child. They can only obtain parental responsibility if they are named on the birth certificate of the child. If an unmarried father is named on the birth certificate, then they will have the same rights over the child as a mother which extend to contact and access to the child as well as the ability to be consulted on important decisions surrounding the children. Unmarried fathers named on the child’s birth certificate enjoy equal rights as the mother.

In contrast unmarried fathers who are not named on the birth certificate of a child do not acquire parental responsibility. As a result, they do not need to be consulted when making decisions about the child. In such situation the father will not have any legal rights in child custody or child arrangement disputes. In order to see his child in these circumstances a father will first need to establish paternity with the courts and obtain parental responsibility before looking to see their child.

What does the court consider when assessing what rights does a father have over child contact?

When assessing what rights does a father have over child contact, the courts will consider the welfare of the child and the child’s best interests under the Children Act 1989. The court’s will consider what is in your child’s best interests and not necessarily what either of the parents want. Therefore, if the mother will not allow contact the courts will disregard the mother’s wishes and focus on the child. Ultimately for a child to maintain a good, close and loving relationship with both of parents is in the child’s best interests and a court will make orders to ensure that happens.

The only time when a court will not be inclined to assist the fathers contact with the child is where there is a concern surrounding the welfare and safety of the child. This usually applies where there the father is abusive, or there are issues surrounding drug and alcohol abuse. In such instances the court will usually instruct for Cafcass to carry out safeguarding checks and gather evidence.

The courts will then look at all the evidence as well as listening to the father before reaching its decision on awarding child contact to the father. It is therefore clear that the courts seek to promote an active relationship of the child with both parents. This right is only taken away from the child where there are concerns regarding the welfare of the child.

What rights does a father have to see his child as a step parent? 

Step families are quite common in the UK. It is common for parents to marry begin relationship with someone who is not the biological father. Step parents can provide a strong bond with the child and play a pivotal role in the life of the child. Legally a step parent has no rights over a step child. Step father cannot even sign school consent forms.

Step fathers can only acquire rights over a step child by acquiring step parent parental responsibility. Previously this could only be obtained by adopting the child or obtaining a residence order. Step parent parental responsibility can now be obtained in the following situations:

  • When the court makes a child arrangement order specifying the child lives with the step parent
  • When the step parent adopts the child
  • When the court has made a parental responsibility order
  • When a parental responsibility agreement is signed to which all parental responsibility holders consent.

Once a step father acquires step parent parental responsibility he will enjoy the same duties, responsibilities and rights as a natural parent.

Arrange a FREE consultation to better understand what rights does a father have to see his child

If you are concerned father or wanting to better understand what rights does a father have to see his child contact us today on 0330 094 5880 or let us call you back to arrange an initial consultation with one of our family lawyers in York or Newcastle, London or across the country will be able to assist in dealing with your enquiry.

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