We were never together - what rights do I have?
If you’ve never been in a couple relationship with the other parent of your child, you may wonder what sort of rights you have, or if you’ll be entitled to any sort of contact whatsoever. TheParentConnection asked Henry Brookman, principal of family law firm Brookman to answer some of the common questions ‘never together’ parents may have.
“I have only just found out I am a Dad, what sort of rights do I have?”
When it comes to rights, think of it as a right of the child to have a full relationship with dad as well as mum. In the end there is only one way to build a meaningful relationship and that is spend time with the child, which is why the law is keen to encourage contact by the non-resident parent. You can give a lot to your child’s life. There are no hard and fast rules as to how much contact you get. The law is that you are joint parents even if your time with the child is not equal.
“We were only in a relationship for a short time and we split just after she fell pregnant. She says she doesn’t need me in her or her child’s life, what can I do?”
The child has a right to have you in its life. Your ex is entitled to her own life, but she has to work around your involvement. If she is being difficult, or if her family are interfering, it would be a good idea to see if she will go to parent counselling with you so that you can sort things out. If she will not be reasonable then you should see a lawyer, and you could make an application for a fixed contact arrangement. The Courts very much favour fathers having as much contact as is possible because that is the way the child can build a sound long term relationship with you.
“What sort of contact agreements can I expect as the separated parent of a newborn? Are weekend visits possible?”
Contact with a newborn has its own special problems for practical reasons. If the newborn is still being breast fed, it can be difficult to fit in time for a father to be involved even if you are living in the same house, let alone having to arrange to visit. The newborn starts recognising the important people in its life from an early stage so even if visits are short, the more the better. Once the baby is off the breast then full day visits or even overnight visits can be very rewarding. But remember a baby is a creature of instinct and will probably not cope well with too long a separation from mother in the early months.
“Can I ask the father of the baby for child support if we were never in a relationship?”
Absolutely. A parent’s obligation to pay a child support is because they are the parent. It has nothing to do with whether you were in a relationship or not. Parenthood has obligations as well as rights. Paying child support is a measure of commitment to the child, so even if there is not much money, as a matter of principle child support should still be paid. Quite often parents sort out a fair agreement between themselves, but you can go to the Child Support Agency for help. If there is a dispute over paternity, a Court can order paternity tests to resolve the issue.