Fathers have rights too. Often in a divorce or separation where children are involved, the male party is left feeling sidelined or up against the unequal weight of the law, which in the UK favours placing children with the mother. In acrimonious separation proceedings this can translate directly to legal impingements being placed on the father’s right to access to his children – as happened to a friend of mine. He’s still trying to get access to the three children he clearly loves very much and continues to be refused by his ex-partner.
So here are some things you may not know about your rights as a father – and some tips too, on how to maintain the contact you want and need with your children even after the event of a separation.
Stay Friends for the Kids?
It’s easy enough to say but it can, sometimes, be extremely hard to do. Nonetheless, the best advice I can give you – whether you’re a father anxious to retain his access to his own children, or a grandparent trying not to take sides in a split involving one of your own children and their kids – is to try to maintain civilities throughout. Separation is by its nature an upsetting and volatile time. If you can weather the storm without getting into a situation from which it is very hard to return, then your chances of reaching an amicable division of child access are greatly improved.
What the Law Says
Unfortunately what the law says doesn’t always make for encouraging reading. According to the Government, fathers do not always shave what is called “parental responsibility” for their child – and even when they do, it’s not always the case that having parental responsibility is the same things as having the right of access.
If you’re married at the time the child is born, parental responsibility devolves on Dad as well as Mum. If you aren’t, parental responsibility rests legally with Mum unless both Mum and Dad jointly register the child’s birth (so are both named on the birth certificate), or if Dad makes a legal parental responsibility agreement with Mum.
Parental Responsibility and Your Rights
As a father, the only right you have under the concept of parental responsibility, is the right to be kept informed about the wellbeing and progress of your child. You don’t have the right to actual contact with the child. In fact, as a parent you don’t really have any rights at all. Parental responsibility as a concept is the closest you’ll come.
The Unfortunate Truth
The unfortunate truth, then, is that as a father you have no right to access unless the courts deem that you should have access. And of course in cases where the separation is acrimonious, making waves about access can be more upsetting for the children than backing down. So you are potentially in a situation where the desire to be a good parent, to keep your children as happy and safe as possible, may actually lead you to withdraw your own contact.
What to Do if You Have Concerns
If you are concerned about your own future contact with your children, or the contact you may have with your grandchildren as the result of a separation, you can find more information at: