When it comes to a separation involving children, the most common practice that is followed in the United Kingdom is that the children will remain in the care of their mother. In most cases, this works out fine where the mother agrees on a reasonable amount of contact time for the father to have with the children and the situation establishes some form of normality.
With nearly half of all marriages ending in divorce, this is a common factor in many people’s lives. However, problems can occur in many instances when a father does not understand what his rights are regarding the law, or when a disagreement between the parents results in the father having less contact with his children than he would like.
A divorce solicitor in London will be able to assist many in this complex area of father’s rights. We can explain to you where your position is legally and assist you through multiple avenues in gaining contact with your child or children. We deal with a number of enquiries on a daily basis from fathers who are seeking information regarding their legal position and what they can do about improving their rights. This is a common and normal topic for us to deal with, so rest assured we are experienced and confident in these matters.
We have learnt over the years that many fathers are simply ill-informed regarding their rights. A divorce solicitor in London can provide you with advice before a separation or a divorce or during such a proceeding, so you know what your rights are and what actions you can take, so that you can have more control over the lives of your children.
What does custody have to do with it?
Children usually end up residing with their mother when a family breaks apart unless there is a significant reason as to why this would not be appropriate. This means that fathers need to formally seek contact with their children.
Just because a child is residing with their mother, this does not mean that the mother has custody of them. Custody, or residence as we know it to be here in the UK, is only able to be granted by the courts.
A father should know that if a mother has been granted custody of their child, this does not lessen the rights of the father in any way. Custody is simply a legal statement that confirms that the child is primarily living with one parent. What a father needs to focus on obtaining is ‘parental responsibility’.
What is parental responsibility?
This is the right, power, responsibility, duty and authority that a parent has over their child to make decisions regarding their welfare. This means that a parent with parental responsibility has the legal right to decide what medical treatment they can have, what school they should go to and what religion they should follow. This right is automatically given to the mother and if the parents are married, then the father gains this automatically as well.
Should you not be married to the mother of your child, then you may need to request to have parental responsibility for your child. We can establish whether you need to request parental responsibility by finding out the age of your child and your relationship to their mother.
One of the primary conditions of an unmarried father having parental responsibility is the date of birth of your child. The current law states that you child will need to be born after 1st December 2003 and that you are named on the birth certificate for you to gain parental responsibility as an unmarried father.
Should you not be named on the birth certificate or your child is born before this date, then the scenario that we must play out as legal professionals is very different. We are able to assist you in whatever direction we must go in allowing you more contact with your child. We strongly believe it is important that a child has contact with both of their parents in order to grow up balanced and healthy.
There are three ways in which we can ensure you have the right to acquire parental responsibility. The first is the easiest where we will contact the mother of the child and come to a mutual agreement that allows you your rights as a father.
By following a code of practice that ensures a non confrontational and constructive discussion between the parties, we aim to create a peaceful environment where everybody is respected, heard and understood. Through negotiations, any fears or concerns that a mother has can be raised and we can aim to appease these to strike an agreement that all parties can agree to.
If it is not possible to mutually agree, then the father has the right to formally apply to the court. We will support you in seeking a Parental Responsibility Order which will grant you the rights that you deserve as a father to your child, allowing you more access to their life.
Furthermore, you can try the alternative avenues that are available to you as an unmarried father of a child. You can marry the mother and gain automatic parental responsibility or you can apply for a residence order, thus gaining custody of the child.
We will advise you on what we believe to be the most logical and fruitful course to take which entirely depends on your situation and what you hope to achieve out of your efforts. We take the time to listen to your needs and do our best to help you to achieve those goals.
Whether you are being denied contact to your child unlawfully and want to understand your rights and change the situation, or you simply want to create a legally binding and formal document based on the agreement you have with the mother, we are able to provide you with the legal rights that you deserve as a father.
By speaking with us about any concerns, we are able to provide you with legal advice and support that is tailored to your personal situation. We look forward to reuniting you with your children and allowing you the ability to make a positive influence on their lives.