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What rights do unmarried fathers have?

top child law expert


Keeping up with the Kardashians – Daddy drama and unmarried father’s rights:

On Sunday night Kardashian fans worldwide rallied around their televisions to tune into the latest episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians titled ‘Betrayal.’ The eagerly awaited episode focused on the devastating moment that saw Khloe Kardashian nearly go into early labour amidst the news that her boyfriend, basketballer Tristan Thompson, had been caught cheating just days before their child’s due date.

The couple, who are not married but are currently cohabiting, are both parents to 7 month year old baby girl True who was born on 12 April 2018, just two days after the cheating videos emerged. Although Khloe claims to have forgiven Tristan’s behaviour and the couple continue living together, their future remains somewhat uncertain.

This brings us on to the question that with nearly half of children being born out of wedlock in England and Wales, what rights do unmarried fathers have in relation to their children and how do they acquire these rights?

Parental Responsibility (PR):

Parental responsibility is the legal concept and represents all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property. On a practical note this means that any decisions made in relation to a child’s schooling, choice of doctors and so on will be required to be made by somebody with parental responsibility.

A biological mother automatically has PR after their child is born however a biological father does not. So how can a father acquire parental responsibility?

Acquiring Parental Responsibility:

Under Section 4 of the Children Act 1989 a father can acquire parental responsibility in one of the following ways:

  • If the father is married to the mother at the time of the birth or they later become married;
  • If the father is not married but is named on the child’s birth certificate as the father;
  • If the mother and father sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement providing for the father to have parental responsibility;
  • If the father gets a Parental Responsibility Order from the Court

It is therefore fairly straightforward for a biological father to acquire parental responsibility for their child. However, can step-fathers also acquire parental responsibility?

Step-father acquiring Parental Responsibility:

A step-father does not automatically have PR for a child but step-fathers can acquire PR under Section 4A of the Children Act by entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement as long as consent has been given by all of the parents who already have PR. Step-fathers also have the option if parents with PR do not all give their consent of applying to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order and any Section 8 order, which includes an Order for the child to live with or spend time with them.

It is important to remember that when the court considers any application under the Children Act, the court’s primary consideration will be the welfare of the child and unless evidence to the contrary is shown, the court will presume that the involvement of both parent’s in the life of the child concerned will further the child’s welfare.

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

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