Separating parents can wonder what rights does a father have following divorce. Though children more often go to live with the mother after parents separate, this is in no way an automatic assumption. The courts will always start with the presumption that it is best that both parents have contact with the children. Where a father has been the primary carer – doing most of the work looking after the children – it is likely that the children will remain living with him. Where a child does not live with the father, he will have as much contact with the child as is practicable and suitable for that child. The court will only prevent a father from seeing a child if there are good reasons – for example proven allegations of neglect or abuse. If a mother unfairly restricts access to the child, the court can use a variety of mechanisms to punish this, including fines, community service and even prison.
A father’s right to their children during a divorce is based purely on whether he has parental responsibility - the process of divorce does not affect this in anyway.
Parental responsibility covers the rights, powers, responsibilities and authority that a parent has in relation to a child under the law. These important decisions include:
Parental responsibility can either be automatic or acquired depending on the person’s relationship to the child and their marital status.
The biological mother will always have automatic parental responsibility for a child. The situation is not always the same for the biological father, who will only have automatic parental responsibility where one of the following criteria are met:
Parents that are married or in a civil partnership will not lose their parental responsibility if they divorce or separate- it does not matter that they are not living with their child. Parental responsibility can end either automatically or by a court order.
Parental responsibility ends either automatically or via a court order in the following situations:
We do get asked what rghts do fathers have if they are not on the birth certificate. It is worth noting here what the situation is for unmarried fathers where a relationship ends. An unmarried father that is not named on the birth certificate will not automatically have parental responsibility. This means that the mother will be able to make all decisions in relation to the child, including where they live, and the father does not have any input. To get around this issue, the father can either get a:
He enters into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother and files this with the Central Family Court
Where both parents have parental responsibility, then neither can take the child abroad without the consent of the other or a court order allowing it- without this it is a criminal offence. However, if one parent has a Child Arrangements Order, then they can take the child abroad for up to a month without the consent of the other parents with parental responsibility. For further information can be found here.
Fathers for Justice was a family law pressure group which chose to highlight issues for fathers through high profile stunts. Though some more extreme actions and members saw the group become discredited, their protest had a noticeable impact on family law.
Since the group became active, there has been increased scrutiny and transparency in the family courts, and successive governments have worked to promote greater support for fathers in the family law system.
Vardags is one of the UK’s top divorce law firms. We specialise in complex, high net worth and international cases. The Legal 500 has said of Vardags lawyers : “The team is noted for its sheer intellect”.
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