Fathers' Rights - How do I get parental responsibility?

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.

Married parents automatically have parental responsibility if they split.  For unmarried dads with children born before 1st December 2003 they do not have parental responsibility automatically.  For children born after then as long as dad's name is on the birth certificate they also have parental responsibility.

 1. If your child's mum agrees, you should have it

If you both agree that you should have PR, then it's very easy - download, print off and both sign two copies of a Parental Responsibility Agreement and this then has to be taken to a local family court. Two copies of the signed agreement must be lodged with the Central Family court in order to be binding.

 2. If she doesn't sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement, what do I do?

You can make an application to the court. In considering an application from a father, the court will take into account:

the degree of commitment shown by the father to his child

the degree of attachment between father and child

the father's reasons for applying for the order

A court will not unreasonably reject an application for PR, and all decisions should be based on what it considers to be in the child's best interest.


What if I disagree with my child’s mum about arrangements for the children?

Many fathers are primarily concerned about their rights to see their children. If you can’t agree with your child’s mum about arrangements for the children, you can try and resolve matters in mediation and if mediation breaks down you can apply to the courts to make an order. In England and Wales, the earliest point in any court process at which this can be done is known as a directions hearing. If there is a degree of agreement between you, a consent order may be made. 

In Scotland, your first chance to ask for interim orders would normally be at a Child Welfare Hearing, which is supposed to be held within three weeks of initiating proceedings concerning children in the Sheriff Court. You can have usually an emergency motion heard before this.

Child Arrangement problems

The court will try to help you and your child's mother reach an agreement. This is likely to involve a Cafcass officer. In England and Wales, Cafcass is the organisation charged with looking after the interests of children through the court process. If agreement cannot be reached, the court may make an order about whom the child is to live with and spend time with. However, it will only do this if it would be better for the child than not making an order.

In Scotland, the court might appoint a reporter who will either be a lawyer or a social worker, the latter typically only if there has already been social work involvement. The pursuer (i.e. the one launching the proceedings in the first place) usually has to pay for this as part of the legal expenses, though if they “win” the case the costs may be recoverable from the other party. 

Family Courts: Child Arrangement Order 


Step fathers rights to see children

It can be very difficult to maintain relationships with step-children after separation. Ideally, their mother will recognise and support her child’s ongoing relationship with you. If she prevents you from spending time with the child it is possible to apply for a Child Arrangement Order if the children lived with you for at least three years.

In Scotland, anyone showing an interest in the child can apply for a contact or other order concerning them. Being a step dad would almost certainly be sufficient grounds to ask a court for this – though not necessarily to get it.


Is the law biased against fathers?

The law itself is not biased against either mothers or fathers but individuals (including judges) can have their own attitudes towards the value of mothers and fathers to children. When the courts come to decide any matter concerning a child’s upbringing, their paramount consideration should be the welfare of the child. Increasingly, it is recognised that fathers have a significant role to play in their children’s lives after separation, and it's now relatively rare for a father to be denied contact altogether.


Other useful articles...

Fathers rights to see their children: law in the UK

- Child Support

- Divorce and separation rights: the law

- The family courts: residence and contact orders


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: March 2018

Hide comments (31)


  • Guest
    Bob Saturday, 16 May 2015

    PR Total Waste Of Time

    I have a PR in place, but let me tell you, when your x decides she wants to break all the agreements you try getting anything done about it, you get laughed at I promise you ! The laws in this country need to change to give fathers equal rights, equal being just that, until then pay your money and shut the hell up is the message ! CMS "advisors" talk to dads appallingly, dish out financial advice without any financial qualifications and are always and I mean always on the side on the woman. As a dad you have no rights, they say you do but unless your prepared to fight for a long time and spend a lot of cash in courts, you have nothing trust me....

  • Guest
    Maggie Martin Tuesday, 29 March 2016


    I am saddened to hear Bob's story as our son is about to embark on the same journey. As grandparents we support him but the mother is devious and manipulative. If the courts have no power what would be the point of using them?

  • DAD.info Team 1
    DAD.info Team 1 Monday, 06 June 2016

    Hi Maggie - how are things going. Did you have any luck with the courts.

    If you would still like some advice please let us know. Alternatively please visit our forum page and ask any question there - the link is below:


    We have a great number of Dads on the forum who have had similar experiences as well as our expert moderators who would be able to help and advise accordingly.

    Please do come back to us and let us know if there is anything else we can do.

    Kind regards

    DAD.Info Team

  • Guest
    Jack Wednesday, 18 January 2017

    struggling and it's just the beginning

    Im so scared after seeing this sad story. My ex has just given birth to my baby boy and has completely turned on me she is now telling me I'm not even gonna get on his birth certificate. And never gonna get the chance to see him. I've seen him twice in two weeks and I can't bare it any more. I can't sleep. Eat or even crack a smile. Can someone please give me some honest advice

  • Guest
    Scott Friday, 17 June 2016

    Hi my i have a step daughter i brought up since see was 6 months she now 6 years my x wants to give me responsibility with our lo but how do i go about it and what can i get ?? Do i adopt or jist ask for pr ? Thanks

  • DAD.info Team 1
    DAD.info Team 1 Monday, 20 June 2016

    Hi Scott

    Thank you for your comment - the following website may be of help to you:


    It would also be helpful if you posted your question on our DAD.Info forum page where I community of Dads and experienced moderators may be able to advise you further - the link is below:


    Good luck and let us know how you get on.

    Kind regards

    DAD.Info Team

  • Guest
    Alex Wednesday, 29 June 2016

    My ex is physically,emotionally ,financially abusing our children . Have I got chance to win full custody of the children ?

    I've got a contact order in place to spend all day Sunday with my kids. For the past 8weeks I've noticed things which raised suspission(bruises,emotional distress,starving every time...)and when talked to my 12 ,11 and 7year old sons, they have confirmed my suspicions that their mother have been physically abused them and telling them to lied to their social worker about things.
    Now I'm thinking to ask the court for full custody of the children ,given I'm secure an permanent employment &a appropriate accommodation for them. Have I got chance to win it ??

  • DAD.info Team 1
    DAD.info Team 1 Wednesday, 29 June 2016

    Hi Alex

    Thank you for getting in touch - we are sorry to hear that you are having such a difficult time. Unfortunately we are not able to provide specific advice but we can point you in the right direction.

    http://www.coram.org.uk/?gclid=CMi5iueo8MwCFSQW0wod6qIO5Q This is a link to the Children's Legal Centre. They may be able to offer you the right support and advice.

    You could also ask the court themselves what they think you should do - particularly if you are concerned that your children are at risk.

    It would also be really good if you posted your question on our forum page - we have a great community of Dads who would be able to offer advice based upon their previous experience. We also have an experienced group of moderators who may be able to help you.

    Please reply to let us know how you get on and whether we can be of further assistance to you.

    Kindest regards

    DAD.Info Team

  • Guest
    faith Thursday, 30 June 2016

    after legal advice or information

    Hi my brother got his girlfriend pregnant and they split weeks before his daughter was born. The girlfriend is saying it isn't his baby but has no other dad around. My brother truly believes it is his baby but what are the measures to be taken and can anything be done to provide chance of fatherhood or has that door closed.

  • DAD.info Team 1
    DAD.info Team 1 Monday, 04 July 2016

    Hi Faith - thank you for your comment - your brother could try the Children's Legal Centre - they may be able to advise


    It would also be really helpful if you posted your query on our forum page as we have a great community of Dads with a wealth of experience who may be able to offer some encouragement. We also have experienced moderators who may be able to help.


    If you require any further advice please come back to us.

    Kind regards

    DAD.Info Team

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Guest Thursday, 28 January 2021

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