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Rights of all father figures

Father’s Day is approaching on 17th June this year and this can be an important day for any father, step-father or male role model that may be playing a significant part in any child’s upbringing.

There are a number of family dynamics these days as families have moved away from the traditional times where a mother and father had to be married before they had children and children born out of wed-lock was frowned upon.

Apart from the “traditional” family set up with married parents there are families where a child will have a biological father but the parents have separated and mother has re-married so a step-father exists as well. Or in some cases the mother may just be living with a partner. They may just be referred to as “mother’s boyfriend”. Not forgetting there are some situations where the mother is also having to play the role of both parents if the father has unfortunately passed away or is not involved in their children’s lives.

But what does the law say about all these potential “father figures” who play a significant role in these children’s lives? What rights if any do they have in relation to the decisions made?

Parental Responsibility

Parental Responsibility or PR means the rights, duties and obligations that a parent has towards their children. By having PR it means a parent can have a say over the important decisions in a child’s life such as medical decisions (for example signing medical consent forms for treatment), their religious upbringing and their education (for example which school they attend).

Rights however does not mean a right to a relationship over their child. It is actually the child’s right to a relationship with their parents or other family members. The right means the right to apply for a Court Order determining a certain aspect over the child’s life such as who they should live with and how much time is spent with the other parent. These are called Child Arrangements Orders. There are other Orders called Section 8 Orders which include child Arrangement Orders, Specific Issue Orders and Prohibited Steps Orders. More information can be found on our website by clicking the link here.


Do I have PR if I am the biological father?

A mother automatically has PR after their child is born however a biological father does not. They can acquire it in one of the following ways:-

  • If the father is married to the mother at the time of the birth or later on.
  • If the father is not married but they are named on the child’s birth certificate as the father and the birth was registered after 1st December 2003
  • If the mother and father sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement
  • If the father gets a Parental Responsibility Order from the Court


As a step-father do I have any legal rights or duties?

No you don’t automatically have PR for the child or any legal rights or duties but step-fathers can acquire PR by entering in to a Parental Responsibility Agreement as long as consent has been given by all of the parents who already have PR. Step-fathers can also apply to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order and any Section 8 Order, which includes an Order for the child to live with them or spend time with them.


What if I am not a step-father or biological father but I am living with the mother and children and treat them as my children?

Again you won’t have PR unless an Agreement is signed and you have the consent of all other people who have PR. You won’t be able to apply for any Section 8 Order mentioned above automatically. You would have to have the Court’s permission to first. You don’t need the Court’s permission to apply for a Child Arrangement’s Order for the child to live or spend time with you if that child has lived with you for at least 3 years out of the last 5 years (and the child cannot have stopped living with you for more than 3 months before the application is made to Court).

For further advice in relation to parental responsibility and children matters after separation or divorce, please contact one of our Associate Solicitors, Kirsten Tomlinson on 01625 544 650 or email

Maguire Family Law is a highly recommended niche practice specialising in legal issues flowing from relationship breakdown. We have a large team and can offer advice at any of our locations as follows:-


Wilmslow         01625 544650

Knutsford        01565 648228

London            0207 9474219

Manchester     0161 8048441

For specialist advice on any family law related issue contact Maguire Family Law by email: or telephone:

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