Being the natural father does not necessarily give a father any parental rights

More couples are becoming parents without making any legal commitment to each other as partners. Being unmarried will mean that a father will have no automatic rights as a parent – he will have to take action to acquire those rights.

How your child’s birth is registered, and who is there to register the birth, will have an impact on who will have Parental Responsibility (the right to be responsible for a child).

Birth registration

Registering the birth of your child

The birth should be registered within 42 days (six weeks) of the baby being born.

All original birth certificates require the details of the biological mother and where possible the biological father.

Birth registration is also tied up with Parental Responsibility. Parental Responsibility is something that all mothers have automatically, and all fathers if they are present at birth registration or if they were married to the mother at the time of birth.

Who should register the birth?

If the mother and father were married at the time of the birth, either can register the birth on their own.

If the mother and father are unmarried, responsibility for registering the birth is the mother’s.

If an unmarried father is not present and does not sign the register, his details will not be included on the birth certificate and he will not gain Parental Responsibility for his child, unless:

  • He makes a statutory declaration acknowledging that he is the father, which the mother must give to the registrar, or
  • A parental responsibility agreement or court order has been made and this document is presented at the register office.

An unmarried father may register the birth of his child without the mother if:

  • She makes a statutory declaration acknowledging him as the father of the child, or
  • He brings along a parental responsibility agreement or a court order.

An unmarried father may have his details included at a later date by re-registering the birth.

Further information

For more information go to the Directgov website.

Parental responsibility

What is parental responsibility?

Parental Responsibility (PR) is a legal term.

PR is defined in the Children Act 1989 as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authorities which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”.

Without it, you don’t have any right to be involved in decisions such as where the child lives, their education, religion or medical treatment. A father with Parental Responsibility can also have more of a say in whether their child is taken out of the country.

From 1st December 2003, fathers who register a child’s birth with the mother automatically gained Parental Responsibility. However this only applies to children who are registered after 1st December 2003.

If a father’s name was put on your birth certificate before 1st December 2003, he will not have parental responsibility unless he has either been married to the child’s mother or he has obtained it by court order or agreement. If a father’s name was not on the birth certificate before 1st December 2003, he can apply with the mothers agreement to re-register the child’s birth.

You automatically have PR if:

  • You are the biological mother of the child.
  • You are the father of the child and are married to (or later marry) the mother.
  • You are an unmarried father and are registered on the birth certificate; this applies only to those births registered since December 1 2003.
  • You have adopted the child.

You must take steps to acquire PR if:

  • You are an unmarried father and are not registered on the birth certificate.
  • You are not the biological parent, even if your partner is.

Ways to get PR:

  • If you are the biological father, you can act with the mother to re-register the birth to include your details on the birth certificate.
  • If you are the biological father, you can make a PR agreement with the mother’s consent.
  • If you are the biological father and the mother refuses to make a PR agreement, you can apply to the court for a PR order.

If you are the partner of the biological parent and your partner’s child lives with you, you can get PR in one of a number of ways:

  • you can ask the court for a Residence Order;
  • you can make a PR agreement with consent from the child’s parents;
  • you can apply for a court order; or,
  • you can apply for an Adoption Order.

Further information

The Directgov websitevhas more information on parental rights and responsibilities.

Child maintenance

As a parent, your financial responsibility for your child does not end when your relationship with the other parent ends.

Child maintenance is regular financial support towards a child’s everyday living costs. It is paid by the parent without the main day-to-day care of the child to the parent with the main care. Since April 10 2010, all parents with the main day-to-day care have been allowed to keep all of their child maintenance without it affecting out-of-work benefits.

You have two options for arranging maintenance: a private arrangement; or a statutory (legal) arrangement. The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission was formed in 2008 to provide help in setting up both kinds of arrangements. This help is delivered through the Child Maintenance Options service and the Child Support Agency.

Child maintenance can be arranged privately between yourselves without any official or legal intervention, and this can be done in whichever way is best suited to your circumstances. Free help and tools are available to set up this kind of “family-based child maintenance arrangement” from the Child Maintenance Options service.

If you are not able to reach an agreement between yourselves, it is still possible to arrange maintenance through the Child Support Agency (CSA). There are plans to create a new statutory service but, until then, the CSA is still available.

Further information

Child Maintenance Options offers impartial information and advice to help parents make informed choices about child maintenance. Helpline 0800 988 0988 or text CALL to 66644 for a free call back.

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission is the statutory body responsible for the child maintenance system.