Understanding Fathers' Rights

Understanding Fathers’ Rights: The Importance of Equal Parental Involvement

In this article, we’re talking about the importance of equal parental involvement and understanding fathers’ rights.

A relationship breakdown when children are involved is never easy to cope with and, often, the father will struggle to understand his parental rights. There are many reasons why someone may not see their child or children after a breakup. 

It’s easy to feel like the power is taken away from you if your ex-spouse is preventing you from seeing your children, in which case you may seek professional guidance from child law solicitors in York, charities that support single parents or close family and friends. But what are your rights as a father? 

In this article, we’re looking at the challenges and importance of equal parental involvement.

What Difficulties Do Fathers Face After a Separation?

Although it’s not always the case, initial custody of children will usually be granted to the mother until a more formal solution is set in place. This can pose a number of challenges to fathers – particularly if the separation is acrimonious. Some challenges include: 

Visitation Issues 

If there is bad blood between the two parents following a separation, one parent might try to prevent the other from seeing the children or severely limit such access. They may also behave in a deliberately awkward manner regarding visitation, for example changing plans at the last minute, not being home when the other parent calls for the scheduled visit or constantly changing plans. 

Using Children as Weapons 

Parents may use children as weapons for various reasons, another common example of where this may occur is if one parent has moved on quicker than the ex-spouse. The feeling of jealousy, resentment and distrust towards a parent may bleed into the reasons behind preventing time spent with a parent. 

It may not always be an emotionally driven reason, as mothers tend to have custody of the children, she may feel she isn’t being supported financially by the ex-spouse which can also commonly lead to arguments where children are withheld from the unpaying ex-spouse. 

Understanding Your Parental Rights

Following a separation or divorce, many fathers simply don’t know or understand their rights in terms of their children. If your name is on the birth certificate you do have parental rights and responsibilities for your child(ren), these include:

Visiting Rights

UK law states that a child has a right to have an ongoing and meaningful relationship with their father as long as it is safe and appropriate. This means that, as a father, you do have the right to access to your child(ren). 

It is almost always quicker, easier and better for the child for both parents to reach an agreement between them in terms of time spent with the children. If, however, this is not possible and the mother is unreasonably withholding access, the father has a couple of options: 

  • Contact a family law solicitor – In many cases, a stern letter from a family law solicitor will be enough to convince the mother to be more reasonable when it comes to child visitation. 
  • Child Arrangement Order – In cases where the parents are unable to reach a mutual agreement regarding the child, the father may be eligible to apply for a Child Arrangement Order. This is a process in which a court will make an independent decision as to where the child lives and how much time each parent gets to spend with the child.

What Parental Responsibilities Do Fathers Have?

As mentioned, a father does have visiting rights if there’s no threat to the child’s welfare. If your ex-spouse is being particularly awkward and you have no other option but to go down the legal route, or you’re looking to have full time custody there may be certain ways to make your case stronger. 

As long as you’re on the birth certificate you have parental rights, but this also comes with obligations and responsibilities that a father should adhere to under UK law. These obligations and responsibilities, include:

Financial Responsibility

In most instances, a father will be required to contribute financially to the child’s upbringing, whether the child lives with him or not. Ideally, a separating couple will come to an agreement together about how much – and how frequent – these payments should be. 
If this is not possible, it will usually be up to the Child Maintenance Service to decide.

Lifestyle Decisions

If you have parental responsibility for a child but you do not live with them, it does not mean you have a right to spend time with your children. However, a father with parental responsibility has the right to be involved with certain decisions including: 

  • Health and medical treatment
  • Where the child is schooled
  • What religion the child is raised
  • Who the child spends time with – for example, holidays which involve a new partner of one of the spouses
  • Where the child lives within reason; for example, the town, city or even country 

In too many cases, a father will be led to believe that these decisions are the sole responsibility of the mother, but this is far from the case. With equal parental involvement, both parents should have a say in these extremely important matters. 

Understanding your rights as a father…

A divorce or separation is rarely easy and, for fathers, the thought that access to their children may now be limited can be distressing and can even lead to mental health issues. 

If in doubt as to what your rights and obligations are following the breakdown of a relationship, you should always contact a reputable family law solicitor as soon as possible to make sure that you take appropriate action. 

Until next time.

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