What are the legal rights of unmarried fathers? Devon family solicitor Jen Law explains.
The legal concept of parental responsibility refers to the ‘rights, duties, power, and responsibilities’ that a parent has in relation to a child. If a parent doesn’t have parental responsibility, they may not be able to have the level of involvement with their child’s life as they may like without being granted PR by the court (an application which will require the court’s permission to start the proceedings) or by agreement with the other parent.
On the birth of a child to unmarried parents, the child’s father, unlike its mother, does not automatically have ‘parental responsibility’ unless he is on the birth certificate.
The position can be contrasted with the position of married fathers who are bestowed parental responsibility automatically. This means that the law differentiates between fathers who are married at the time of birth and those who are unmarried, with the legal rights of unmarried fathers being inferior to their married counterparts.
Without parental responsibility an unmarried father may not be able to determine which school the child attends, make a medical decision for the child, or object to the child’s name being changed.
Unmarried fathers must therefore actively seek ‘parental responsibility’ to be able to make decisions and be consulted on their child’s welfare.
Parental responsibility can be achieved in several ways. This includes having the father’s name recorded on the child’s birth certificate or by signing a ‘parental responsibility agreement’ with the mother of the child.
Once parental responsibility has been acquired, the unmarried father then has a right to be consulted on and make decisions about the child.
If you require further guidance of the legal rights of unmarried fathers and wish to seek parental responsibility then our experienced family team are here to help, and can apply to the court to obtain a Parental Responsibility Order and a Child Arrangements Order.