Unmarried fathers in the England and Wales parental rights in separation changed in 2003 when the legal status of “Parental Responsibility” was automatically given to any father whose name appeared on the birth certificate of any child born on or after 1st December 2003. Therefore, whether or not you have Parental Responsibility as an unmarried father depends on whether your child was born on, after or before 1st December 2003, and whether your name appears on the child’s birth certificate. This table summarises the options:
Which unmarried fathers have “Parental Responsibility”?
|Does your name appear on the birth certfiicate?||Yes||No|
|Child born before 1st December 2003||No||No|
|Child born on or after 1st December 2003||Yes||No|
Having Parental Responsibility for a child means that in law, you have the same rights as any other parent. You should be recognised by courts, schools, hospitals and any other public institution as a legal parent. It is the baseline of legal recognition.
If you don’t have Parental Responsibility for your child and you want to get it, there are two routes: Either you can sign a Parental Responsibilty Agreement with the child’s mother, if she agrees to, or you can ask a court to issue a Parental Responsibility Order.
There are some differences in respect of Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Births registered in Scotland
A father has parental responsibility if he’s married to the mother when the child is conceived, or marries her at any point afterwards.
An unmarried father has parental responsibility if he’s named on the child’s birth certificate (from 4 May 2006).
Births registered in Northern Ireland
A father has parental responsibility if he’s married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth.
If a father marries the mother after the child’s birth, he has parental responsibility if he lives in Northern Ireland at the time of the marriage.
An unmarried father has parental responsibility if he’s named, or becomes named, on the child’s birth certificate (from 15 April 2002).
Births registered outside the UK
If a child is born overseas and comes to live in the UK, parental responsibility depends on the UK country they’re now living in.
About the author
Clare Kirby qualified as a lawyer in 1983 and worked for several years in industry. She founded Kirby & Co in 1997. As a member of Resolution and an advanced member of the Law Society’s Family Law Panel she is experienced and respected in the field of family law. Trained as a collaborative lawyer, Clare offers clients a range of options – traditional, and collaborative law – to best meet the needs of the individual clients.
Updated: September 2017