Fathers’ Legal Rights and Responsibilities
Fathers don’t have ‘rights’ as such but they have what is known as ‘parental responsibility’ or PR. This is the legal name for the duties that a parent has to their child. Having parental responsibility gives a father the right to contribute to decision making regarding his child's future such as, giving consent to medical treatment, choosing their school, deciding how they should be brought up and choosing their religion.
Having parental responsibility does not mean that a father can over-ride the mother’s wishes or interfere with the mother’s day-to-day decisions relating to the children when they are with her. In the same way, a mother can’t ignore the father’s wishes or interfere with the father’s decisions when the children are with him.
Having parental responsibility doesn’t mean that you will get what you want from a court if you disagree with the other parent. Nor does it mean that you can avoid paying child maintenance if you don’t have parental responsibility.
Who has Parental Responsibility?
Parental responsibility is automatically granted to mothers and to fathers who are married to the mother. You will also have parental responsibility if you have adopted the child or the child was born after 1st December 2003 and you are registered on the child’s birth certificate. (Different rules apply in Scotland) You do not lose PR on divorce or separation.
How to get PR if you haven’t already got it
- If the mother agrees, you both sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement form available from your local county court or downloadable from the Court Service website, http://www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/
- If the mother doesn’t agree you can apply for a parental responsibility order from the court. In considering an application from a father, the court will take the following into account:
- the degree of commitment shown by the father to his child
- the degree of attachment between father and child
- the father's reasons for applying for the order
The court will then decide to accept or reject the application based on what it thinks is in the best interests of the child.
Follow this link for more information relating to legal advice for separating parents