An unmarried father has few legal rights with regard to his children unless he has a legally binding Parental Responsibility Agreement or a Parental Responsibility Order. He does have the right to make applications for contact etc. through the court.
“Married or not, you do not have any rights to your child, you have responsibilities. Your child has the right to grow up with the love and care of both parents. It is your responsibility to protect the rights of your child”.
An unmarried father who jointly signs the birth register with the mother from 1st December 2003 now has Parental Responsibility. This does not apply to children born before the legislation was passed, although it is a common misconception.
An unmarried father without Parental Responsibility has no right to act on the child’s behalf (except in emergency) or to be consulted over which school the child attends, which religion, if any, (s)he is brought up in, what medical treatment (s)he receives, what name (s)he is known by, or whether (s)he is put up for adoption. An unmarried father cannot get a passport for the child or access official documents or school/medical records. He remains liable to pay the Child Support Agency on demand and may have money deducted from his wages.
What is parental responsibility?
All mothers and most fathers have legal rights and responsibilities as a parent – known as ‘parental responsibility’.
If you have parental responsibility, your most important roles are to:
provide a home for the child
protect and maintain the child
If you have parental responsibility for a child you don’t live with, you don’t necessarily have a right to contact with them – but the other parent still needs to keep you updated about their well-being and progress.
You’re also responsible for:
disciplining the child
choosing and providing for the child’s education
agreeing to the child’s medical treatment
naming the child and agreeing to any change of name
looking after the child’s property
Parents have to ensure that their child is supported financially, whether they have parental responsibility or not.