Being a father of children yet not living with them can be deeply traumatic and one only has to look at the campaign group Fathers 4 Justice to see how desperate some fathers get if they cannot have access to their children.
Fathers rights do not really exist with the UK law preferring to focus on parental responsibilities (PR), which is a legal status meaning all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority that go with being a parent. It affords a duty on any person having that PR with a duty to care for and protect their child. PR does provide a father with a role in their child’s upbringing with the right to contribute to decision making regarding the child’s future in matters including giving consent to medical treatment, choosing their name and religion and deciding how they should be brought up.
Parental responsibility is given to the mother automatically. The father will also automatically get PR but only if:
- They are married to the baby’s mother at the time of the birth.
- The baby was born after 2003 and you are named as father on the birth certificate.
If the father does not qualify through these means then he has other alternatives assuming he is the child’s natural father. He can get PR by:
- Marrying the mother
- Making a PR agreement with the mother
- Re-registering the birth and ensuring that his name is on the birth certificate
- Applying to the court for an order
- Applying to the court for a residence order
If the father can get the mother to consent to a PR agreement then a form will be needed for each child and they will have to be signed at the Family Proceedings Court or a County Court. This will then give the father full parental rights and responsibilities. However, it does require the mother to sign it, giving her consent and if she is unwilling to do this, then the father may have little option other than to take the issue to court with the resulting expense this means.
If the matter does get as far as court, the welfare of the child will be the court’s paramount consideration and an order will only be granted if it is better than not granting an order at all.