Unmarried fathers rights

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.

Further reading:

How do I get Parental Responsibility?

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

Hide comments (24)


  • Guest
    Karl egington Monday, 25 July 2016

    Does this also apply if my children were born in Ireland but brought here without me knowing by the mother. We are uk born but lived in ireland. My name is on all birth certs

  • DAD.info Team 2
    DAD.info Team 2 Tuesday, 26 July 2016

    Hi Karl

    Thank you for getting in touch - I recommend you check out the following website for more information on this subject:


    Kind regards

    The Dad.info Team

  • Guest
    joshis kent Monday, 08 August 2016

    child maintenance

    I have just started full tim work, after being on esa I have 1 daughterand separated I want to know how much I must pay every week as its woying me time I pay rent, bills etc how much will they expect from me also council tax I live alone now.

  • Guest
    K Wednesday, 09 May 2018

    Read comment

    15% and so it should be... as a father you have a moral and legal obligation to support your kids financially. They will respect you for it, even if your not there physically your still doing your bit for them and that speaks volume.

  • Guest
    clare Saturday, 31 December 2016

    fathers rights


    Any information would be valuable. My son has his little boy born 2011 living with him and had him over 6 months as my son's ex (not married) couldnt cope with looking after him. Out of the blue today the ex has demanded the child back my son is obviously upset as my grandson is very settled and happy living with his dad. I'd appreciate any help in this matter

  • Guest
    K Wednesday, 09 May 2018

    Read comment

    This is always a painful thing to go through, my heart first of all goes out to you in this time.

    If you fear for the child's welfare I would recommend getting into contact with your local social services and they will take a close look at how things are been conducted and take it from there to ensure the child is in a good enviroment and be able to decide what they think would be best and move forward.

    Alternatively you could contact your local courts and apply a residence order (RO) or something of that kind.
    Parental responsibility is automatic if your sons name is on the birth certificate so this will help and be needed for the RO

    Thanks, hope this helps.

  • Guest
    Steve Sunday, 15 January 2017

    immigration medical

    Can I get a court order to get my daughters mother to take her for an immigration medical, we were never in a relationship , it was one of those one night things

  • Guest
    Sarah bennett Friday, 03 February 2017


    How do I get my daughter back from her dad's visit. He is not on the birth certificate and I was never married to him

  • Guest
    diane Tuesday, 11 April 2017


    my son has a daughter with his ex , she was one in january , when they split and asked to see his daughter , she refused accused him of harassing her and had a restraining order taken out, she has always refused to put his name on her birth certificate and when it suits her she tells my son he is not the father but refuses to do a dna test , my son is heartbroken as am i , i have not seen her for 11 months

  • Guest
    mike Thursday, 04 May 2017

    birth certificate

    hi i split with my ex shortly after she was pregnant she hasn't regisistered the birth yet what are my right to be on the birth certificate

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