One of the toughest and most emotive areas of family law revolves around child access following the separation of parents.

And if you and your former partner are not married or are undertaking a divorce, you may have concerns as to how this affects your rights as a father to see your child or children. There are myths surrounding child access and paternal rights, such as if you are the child’s biological father, you will instantly have the legal right to see the child. However, this is not the case and in this article, we will go into it in more detail.

At Andrew and Andrew, our family solicitors Emsworth have helped many fathers to gain access to their children. We know this area of the law inside and out, so if you are ever perplexed as to what your access rights are following a separation or divorce, contact our team immediately for advice.

But what are the rights of unmarried fathers in the UK? Read on for a simplified guide drawn up by our family solicitors Emsworth.

Parental responsibility

Under UK law, parental responsibility entails being responsible for your child’s wellbeing, feeding and clothing your child, making choices about their education, their health and other areas such as your child’s upbringing.

And as our family solicitors Emsworth will tell you, if you aren’t married to the child’s mother at the time of birth or you haven’t adopted the child, these do not fall under your responsibilities.

Unmarried fathers’ rights

Under UK law, when a child is born, the mother has instant parental rights barring certain circumstances. If the mother is married to the father, he inherits these rights too.

If he is not married, he has to obtain parental responsibility through a family court, which is where our team can help you. If you do not obtain these rights, the mother can make choices about the child’s upbringing without your input.

Child access rights

If you are an unmarried father, you have parental responsibility to your child; this does not equate to child access rights.

Should you and your former partner fail to come to a conclusion surrounding child access, you will need to apply for a child arrangement order, which will specify who has the right to see the child, who the child lives with etc. If you need to begin the drawing up of a child arrangement order or need legal mediation, contact our team.

How long do these rights last?

These rights last until the child is 18 or until a family court removes them, which can happen at any stage up until the child turns 18.

Child support

If you are an unmarried father and do not have parental responsibility, then you will still need to pay child support to the child’s other parent up until the child turns 18 years of age.

Paying this does not give you legal access rights to the child and does not grant you parental responsibility in the UK.