Father’s Rights


Father’s Day is a celebration of fatherhood, paternal bonds and the influence of fathers in our lives.  It’s a day when children lavish daddy with cards, gifts, hugs and kisses and where fathers celebrate both the joys and rewards of having children.

Of course, the role of being a dad extends above and beyond one particular day and as any dad will know, along with the rewards of having children comes a lifetime of responsibility. It is the job of both parents to ensure that this responsibility is taken seriously and exercised in the best interests of their children.

This can sometimes be difficult to achieve when the parent’s relationship breaks down. Separation, particularly when the father and child no longer live together, can leave daddy feeling like his role in his child’s life is somehow diminished and less important.

This does not have to be the case. As a father, you can have Parental Responsibility for your child

What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental Responsibility is the legal term for the rights of each parent to be involved in making decisions in the best interest of their children.

It is defined in the Children (NI) Order 1995 as ‘all rights, duties, powers and responsibilities and authority which by law a parent has in relation to the child and his property.’

Do I have Parental Responsibility?

If you are married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth, you automatically get Parental Responsibility.

If you and the child’s mother are not married, Parental Responsibility is not automatic but you can get it n the following ways:-

  • If your child is born after December 2003 and you are named on the birth certificate
  • Through a formal written agreement with the mother
  • By obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order from the Court
  • By having a Residence Order in respect of your child.

What difference does having Parental Responsibility make?

Parental Responsibility is not a label to be worn by a father.

In practical terms, this responsibility gives you as the child’s father the right, for example,

  • To be involved in choosing their school
  • To be kept informed of their progress at school and sent copies of school reports.
  • To give consent to medical treatment
  • To determine your child’s religion
  • To be involved in choosing their child’s name and to agree any change in surname.

I have separated from my child’s mother – do I still have rights?

The short answer is yes.

Parental Responsibility goes some way to ensuring that you can continue to have a pro-active and beneficial input into your child’s life.

Where parents separate, it will often be the case that they can work out themselves where their children are to live and how much time they will spend with each parent.

However, if you cannot agree arrangement with your child’s mother, then you can apply to the Court and ask it to make decisions that are deemed to be in the best interests of your child.

  • The Court can decide where and with whom your child should live. This is known as a Residence Order.
  • In some cases, the Court may make a Joint Residence Order in favour of both parents, where the contact arrangements are such that your child will be spending time living in both your home and their mum’s home.
  • If your child lives with mum, the Court can decide on how much contact you can have with your child. This is known as Contact Orders.
Although in an ideal world it is better where possible for parents to agree issues concerning their children, the law is there to guarantee your child’s right to enjoy a relationship with both parents where this is in their best interests.

For further information on this topic, please feel free to contact Karen or Claire or alternatively leave us your comments below.


“Mum on the Run” – Parental Child Abduction and the Law

The media today are reporting on the case of a mother, Rebecca Minnock who has gone into hiding with her 3 year old son Ethan after a Judge in an English Court ruled that Ethan should live with his father.

It has been reported that Ethan has lived with his mother since his parents separated in February 2013, but in March 2013 legal proceedings began when his father applied for a Contact Order.

Last month, the Court ruled that Ethan should live with his father after finding that Ms Minnock had made false allegations and obstructed contact between father and son.

Usually, any Court proceedings involving a child are kept confidential. However, following the disappearance of Ethan, the Judge in this case took the unusual step of allowing the facts of this case and the names of the parties and child to be reported by the media in an effort to help find Ethan.

This is not the normal type of child abduction case to make the news. We are more likely to read or hear about media pleas to find children who have been abducted by strangers.

It therefore might surprise you to hear that most child abduction cases in the UK do not involve strangers.   Parental child abduction has become a more common problem in recent years than most of us would like to believe.

 It is unclear whether Ethan has been removed from the UK. It is becoming increasing common for children who are caught up in the relationship disputes of their parents, to be removed from their country they live in to another country by one parent without the consent of the other.

Parental child abduction is an issue which has been addressed by the Courts on an international level.  The 1980 ‘Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction’ is an agreement between various countries which aims to ensure the return of an abducted child to the country where he or she normally lives, so that issues of residence (custody) and contact (access) can be decided by the Courts of that country.

It is important for any parent to be aware of their rights under The Hague Convention and the legal proceedings they can issue to ensure the return of their child should the unthinkable happen.

You should seek legal advice as soon as possible if you are worried that:

  • Your child has been abducted from overseas to Northern Ireland
  • Your child has been abducted from Northern Ireland and taken abroad
  • You are being accused of abducting your child.

We are always keen to hear your views on current hot topics such as this so please feel free to leave a comment or contact us about this issue.