What are my parental rights as an un-married father?

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Amy Caddick explores the difference in parental rights between biological mothers and fathers. Whilst parental responsibility is an automatic right for a biological mother of a child, it is not the same for the biological father of a child.

How is Parental Responsibility defined as a father?

The Children Act 1989 defines parental responsibility as: “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”. In practical terms, parental responsibility means that a parent can make important decisions regarding their child such as medical care, schooling, and the child’s name.

This means that if a father does not have parental responsibility for their child, they may not get a say in which school their child attends and they are not legally entitled to any communication from the school such as school reports.

If you are married to the mother of your children when they are born, then that child is considered a “child of the marriage” giving you parental responsibility as the father.

If you are not married to the mother when your child is born, then you can obtain parental responsibility by being registered as the father on the child’s birth certificate when the birth is registered.

How can unmarried fathers obtain parental rights in relation to their children?

Unmarried fathers not registered on the birth certificate can gain parental responsibility in the following ways:

Re-registering the birth.

This will require the agreement of the child’s mother. This can be done by both of you completing a form and taking it to the General Register Office. A certified copy of the child’s birth certificate is required and at least one parent will be required to attend the Register Office to sign the new registration.

Parental Responsibility Agreement

If a mother and father agree about the father being granted parental responsibility, then they can agree to complete a Parental Responsibility Agreement. This agreement must be signed by both parents and signatures must be witnessed. Once completed the form must be filed with The Central Family Court along with the child’s birth certificate and proof of the parents’ identity. The Central Family Court will send each parent back stamped copies of the form which the father can then use to prove he has parental responsibility.

Parental Responsibility Order

If the child’s mother is not in agreement with a father gaining parental responsibility, then a father can apply to the court for a parental responsibility order granting them parental responsibility. If the biological father of the child is disputed, then the court will likely order a DNA test be carried out.

Declaration of parentage

The court can make a declaration to confirm that a father is indeed the biological father of a child. When a declaration of parentage is made, the court will contact the General Register Office and the birth will be re-registered.


It is worth noting that if a child arrangements order is made directing that a child live with someone other than the mother, whether this be a biological father, step-parent, grandparent or other person, this person named in the child arrangements order will gain parental responsibility for the child.


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    Amy Caddick - What are my parental rights as an un-married father?