Do Fathers Have the Same Parental Rights as Mothers?

The short answer to your question is yes, fathers do have the same parental rights as mothers. However, you should know that in the UK, whereas a mum automatically obtains parental responsibility as soon as her child is born, the situation is a bit more complicated for the dad.

How does a father obtain parental responsibility?

As a father, you automatically obtain parental responsibility if you’re either the mother’s husband or named on the birth certificate.
However, if this is not your case, you should be aware that if unfortunately, the mother dies, parental responsibility won’t automatically be passed on to you, even if you’re the biological father of the child. If you do have parental responsibility though, the law will consider you as the person to whom the child should be entrusted if a tragic event occurs.

If you didn’t automatically receive parental responsibility, you can apply for it here.


father sleeping with baby


What are the parental rights and responsibilities we are talking about?

All mums and most dads have legal rights and responsibilities as a parent. These are collectively known as ‘parental responsibility’.

Having parental responsibility means that you play a key role in your child’s life until they reach the age of 18, whether they live with you or not. For example, you must support your kid financially and provide them with a home, as well as protect them from harm.

Although you don’t need parental responsibility for your role as a dad, obtaining this status allows you to legally have a say in important decisions. These include giving consent to medical treatment for your child, choosing or changing their school, applying for a passport as well as deciding upon their religious upbringing or where they should live.

How do you obtain parental responsibility in the UK?

In England and Wales, if the mother and father are married at the time of the birth, both have parental responsibility. The same applies if they’ve jointly adopted the child. If they divorce, they will both maintain their parental responsibility.

However, you can get parental responsibility if you’re not married by:

  • Marrying the mother
  • Jointly registering the birth of your child with the mum and adding your name as the father
  • Making a parental responsibility agreement with the mum
  • If you’re unable to do the two above, you can instead apply to the court for an order
  • Applying to the court for a residence order.

If the birth was registered in Scotland or Northern Ireland, things work a little differently. You can check the government’s website for more information.

Can I obtain parental responsibility if I’m not the biological father?

Yes. If you play a significant role in the child’s life, you can also enjoy parental responsibility, even if you’re not their natural father (for instance, because you’re in a relationship with the parent of the child). Therefore, your role as a dad would be recognised by law.

Additionally, it’s important to know that in the UK, more than two persons can have parental responsibility. For example, the mother, her partner and the biological dad could all share parental responsibility. However, if the biological dad has parental responsibility, you will need his consent to obtain it yourself.

If unfortunately, the natural dad refuses to give you his consent, you can apply for a residence order in court. This way your child can live with you at your home and you can also have parental responsibility over them.

How does it work for same-sex couples?

Regarding same-sex couples with kids, the partner of the biological parent can have parental responsibility too. If they are married or civil partners at the time of the fertility treatment, then they both have parental responsibility. If this is not the case, the non-biological parent can:

– Apply for parental responsibility;

– Become civil partners and make a parental responsibility agreement or write both names on the birth certificate.

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  1. Well its still all in the mothers faver no matter how you look at it, Fathers are just 2nd class and looked down on when it comes to looking after kids. We are only here to pay for them and nothing else in this world of equal rights.

    My ex decideds she is borde of me and runs of to a new guy, I who have done everything for my son and her daughters lose out on all of them because she is mum and im just lowley dad.

    Men should stop having kids altogether, they are just used agenst us as a weapon.

  2. Agree with Darren, fathers have no rights in the eyes of a judge. Mothers lie and cheat to get non molestation orders without any investigation they’re given. They have solicitors that sign the mothers signature on these papers that should be fraudulent but yet it stands and lives get ruined.

    Our children have become a revenue and the system will never change. Child welfare is over looked for the pound.

  3. Our kids will thank us if we try our best, eventua6they will grow up and will go looking for you if they have never even meet you before, not ideal to spend most your Dad days without a son or even like in my case no Dad around, my mum.moved us out the country wen i was relly youngh. I managed to go back wen i turned 16 and meet him. If you keep all that you can to show that thetw ere allways in your hart they will Love you for it

  4. So, fathers have the ‘same rights’ but have to apply… so they DONT have the same rights!

    If you have the ‘same rights’ one party should not have to do something to access the rights while the other does nothing.

    Whoever wrote this article needs to understand what the definition of the word same is, then try again because they’re awful at their job.

  5. If a mother changes doctor’s surgery without the consent of the father, is this classed as illegal in UK law?

  6. Mothers should be looked into more closely, lies and deceit is what they go on just to get their way when they know that dad is a perfect dad

  7. The above comments seem to be all true… I myself am going through this… it seems women tell a story and get supported without any investigation. I wasn’t even contacted or questioned until I took it to court. And cafcas?? Supposed to be independent and unbiased? That’s a joke the report they initially put to the courts had discrepancies and incorrect facts … plus how can it be unbiased when 85% of the staff are female? (Let me guess women no better?) There is nothing in place to support or even consider the harm it does to the preventing or continuing a very strong bond between farther and daughter or son. my daughter was taken from me by her mom without consent without information of where she had been taken and with no effort from any authority informing me she was safe and I have to fight for my daughters rights to see her farther at a cost I can Ill afford my case is still ongoing. It should be criminal what some mothers do in order to get what they want ( in my case I believe all she wants is a council house and has no regard of the damage caused in order to get what she wants) I can only congratulate her as she has now been given a 3 bedroom house ( definitely the quickest way to get bumped up the waiting list ehh) but look at the cost you’ve severely damaged your children’s mental health and taught them what exactly?? How to f@@@ someone over?? THINGS NEED TO CHANGE!!!!!

  8. I totally agree with Darren.. and something REALLY needs to change to give these Fathers proper equal parental rights!! ?