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Parental Rights of Unmarried Fathers

Parental Rights of Unmarried Fathers


In England & Wales 1 in 3 children are born outside of marriage. This leads to no end of complications and problems for the unmarried fathers, many of whom end up with less rights and entitlements than the child’s mother. In most instances this is not a problem and the parents will work their way around this, whether or not they decide to stay together in a relationship. But of course, when it goes wrong, it often goes very wrong and it’s then that dad’s can be left ‘not holding the baby’. If you are reading this article, chances are you are a dad who is missing out on sharing a life with your child, due to relationship breakdown with someone to whom you were not married at the time of the child’s birth.

Unfortunately in the eyes of the law being the biological father of a child does not automatically give you any automatic rights. Parents usually have what is called parental responsibility over a child. This is the legal term which describes the rights and responsibilities of being a parent of a child. Parental responsibility can be obtained by the consent of the mother, but what if mum is unwilling to consent and unwilling even to admit that you are the father of the child. Mother’s are in a far stronger position here as mum’s automatically qualify for parental responsibility. Gaining parental responsibility means that you are responsible for looking after your child. It also means many other things too like having the right to have a say on many important issues relating to the child’s upbringing and welfare including the child’s education, medical care, choice of religion of the child and also choosing your own child’s name.

The Law regarding the parental responsibility of Fathers has changed a while back. In order for the father of the child to automatically obtain parental responsibility, he must be married to the mother of the child at the time of child’s birth. If the child was born after the 1st December 2003 and dad’s name is on the birth certificate then the father will qualify for parental responsibility. If the child was born before the 1st December 2003 and dad’s name was not on the birth certificate or the father was not married to the mother of the child then the Father will not automatically gain.

If the Father has not been automatically assigned parental responsibility then we can assist in obtaining this through the courts. The courts will always view the welfare of the child as the most important factor. This puts the child first which is what most responsible parents would want anyway. So if you are faced with a situation where the mother of your child is not being accommodating in your desire to take part in the upbringing of your child, you may need expert legal assistance. That is where we can help. We face situations like this and indeed far more complicated than this on a daily basis and we have in place the expertise and experience to assist you in resolving those issues and working toward a more balanced parenting regime where the only real and paramount consideration is the welfare of your child.

If you feel that you need some legal advice on your rights as a father, contact us on 020 8401 7352 to discuss your situation in the utmost confidence with a member of our specialist Family Law team. Alternatively you can send us an email at and a member of the Family Law team will do their very best to answer your questions and offer you an appointment.

Please note that we provide a highly personalised, specialised and boutique legal service and representation in Family Law matters, in all courts in England & Wales. As such we do not undertake Legal Aid work