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
    Garry Davies Monday, 29 May 2017


    my ex partner is refusing to let me see my daughter, I am not on the birth certificate and I have no contact with my ex as she won't reply to my calls or texts. What rights do I have?

  • Guest
    Ree Tuesday, 30 May 2017

    I need help fast

    My partners ex has stopped us having contact with his children for a little over 2 years yesterday she messaged me his gf on Facebook telling us that the children have been removed from her care by social services today we met with the social workers to discover his daughter is with her maternal gran and his son is with the mother of a man my partners ex was with there are other kids involved but only these 2 belong to my partner we obviously want them 2 here with us asap where they can have a more settled life the mother of the kids has made false claims about my partner being violent and a heavy drinker we have a appointment tomorrow with a solicitor and the case is back in court in a week any advice u can give we would be so grateful

  • Guest
    Lara Christie Saturday, 05 August 2017

    Birth certificate

    Hi, I found out I was pregnant after I split from my ex (we were never married). My concern is wether or not to put his name on the birth certificate in case he wants rights when she's a bit older. He believes she's not his as thinks I was cheating, I wasn't.

    Any advice?

  • Guest
    Lee horsfall Tuesday, 10 October 2017

    Mr lee

    Hi I have a 9 yr old daughter with my ex and am on the birth certificate and we share pr 50/50 but I only found out yesterday that my daughter had a hospital appointment and my ex did let me know about it after we both agreed we would go together now my daughter may need operations on her legs and my ex and her new boyfriend have said that I have no rights to be at the hospital appointment, is there any thing I can do I'm at the end of my tether as its affecting my daughter as she want me there,lee

  • Guest
    Destiny Friday, 17 November 2017

    10 years

    Had a short relationship with a girl, we got on wel then she said she cheated.

    Split from her and then she said she was pregnant to this guy.

    I had a suspicion and said I wanted a blood test and when the baby was born we had a big argument and she was uncontactable after that

    I’ve now looked on her fb 10
    Years and in seeing this girl she looks just like me...

    I want to find out if she is mine and I’d like to gain my parental rights and have access??!

    Where do I stand? What support can I get? How will the courts look at this?

  • Guest
    Annoymous Friday, 08 December 2017

    Need advice please

    My partner never was with his sons mother but is on the birth certificate, we have his son 2/3 nights in the week for dinner aswell as 2 night in the week to sleep so pretty much joint custody, his son was ill the other week and refused to give my partner the name of the doctors he goes to and the number so we ended up taking him to a walk in centre. When things don't go her way she starts to threaten with taking him to court and stop seeing his son. He pays her £150 a month and as she doesn't drive he is constantly picking him up and dropping him off. Does she have the right to stop contact? What rights does my partner have ?

  • Guest
    A palmer Thursday, 18 January 2018

    Mr palmed

    Hi my son has split with his ex and she has stop letting him see his son i am his grandfather and only seen him on few occasions if i went to her.house my son is mixed race and i am black she will only allow my sons mother to see him who is white i just think he should be seeing both sides of his family. Anytime she has allowed me to see him is if she is there because i think she is jealpus of the happiness he shows when in our company imy son and i need help with this problem thanks

  • Guest
    khan Sunday, 11 February 2018

    access to my child

    i am father of a british child he is 2 and half year old my name is on birth certificate. he lives with his mother and i had access to see him but now his mother doesn't allow me to see him. i am overstayed in UK and never been in relationship with my child's mother. what are my rights as a father and how can i get access to see my child?

  • Guest
    Lisa Thursday, 15 February 2018

    Manipulation of a Woman Scorned

    As the result of a one night stand a few years ago, my friend has a 6 year old daughter with a woman. His name IS on the birth certificate and he has always paid child maintenance for her, but the mother won't let him spend time with his daughter unless he spends time with her too - "like a family".
    He is not interested in having a relationship with the mother (as he's currently in one with someone else - unbeknownst to the mother) but understandably, wants more time with his daughter. How can he go about making this happen without having to jump through the continuous "hoops and conditions" of the mother?
    This is causing him a great deal of distress and upset, as he just wants to develop a closer relationship with his daughter.
    What can he do?

  • Guest
    Luke Saturday, 17 February 2018


    Hi I'm an unmarried father to be
    My ex partner has already said she is not putting me on the birth certificate
    I already have a 6 year old daughter from a previous relationship witch I have a great relationship with
    I have my daughter every weekend
    Which she and her mother are happy with
    I want to build a relationship with my self and my daughter with this child which will be born in augest
    But the mother is being more unreasonable every minute
    She already threatened me with not putting my name on the child birth certificate
    What is my best course of action
    As I refuse to give up on any of my children

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