Advice for unmarried parents

Almost half of children born in the UK are now born outside of civil partnership or marriage according to the National Statistics Office. However, many parents who aren’t married don’t realise the legal implications of their family set-up or indeed, their financial responsibilities to that child. Here we look at the legal relationship of parents who are not married:

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Your relationship with your child

For most parents, it is important they have parental responsibility for their children. If you are responsible for your child, you have a responsibility for the welfare of the child. To fulfil this responsibility, you have the right to make legal decisions for the child, including decisions related to education, religion, medical care and names. So, for those with children who are not married or in a civil partnership, do parents automatically hold parental responsibility?

The biological mother will automatically always have parental responsibility for the child.

A married father will automatically have parental responsibility for children

A father who is not married will not automatically be given parental responsibility

In what circumstances can an unmarried father hold parental responsibility for a child?

In the following circumstances: –

From December 1st, 2003, if the father jointly registers a birth with the mothers and is named on the birth certificate;

If he has signed a parental responsibility agreement with the mother;

If a court order grants him parental responsibility.

The best thing to do if you want to make sure that you have parental responsibility for your child is to register the birth with the mother. It is generally accepted that it is more beneficial for identity and emotional well-being for both parents to be named on a child’s birth certificate.

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Note that when the parents are married, both parents can register the birth without the other present. For help with all family law, contact Huddersfield Solicitors at a site like

Does an unmarried father have the same rights as married fathers after separation?

The short answer is, yes. If parents do not agree arrangements for the children, an unmarried father can make an application to the court in the same way that a married father can. If an unmarried father does not have parental responsibility, the application must also be made for parental responsibility.

It’s important to know that when a father does not have parental responsibility, mothers do not have to tell him or decide with him when making decisions for children or when moving a child from the area such as outside of England and Wales, either temporarily or permanently. If you are not sure whether you hold parental responsibility or not, it is very important that you find professional legal family advice and, if necessary, start the process for obtaining that important parental responsibility.

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