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Can a mother stop a father from seeing his child in the UK?

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If you are going through a divorce or separation, you may be wondering what fathers’ rights in the UK are and whether a mother can prevent a father from spending time with their child. We take a look at dads’ rights and whether there are ever any reasons to stop child contact.

This article will answer the following questions:

  • What rights do fathers have?
  • What are the main reasons to stop a father seeing their child?
  • How do you legally stop someone from seeing your child?
  • How long does a father have to be absent to lose his rights?
  • When do fathers have parental responsibility?
  • What decisions can a mother make without consulting the child’s father?
  • How will the courts decide when a father can see his child?

At Crisp & Co, we specialise in family law, meaning we have an exceptional depth of experience and understanding of the legal issues in this complex and challenging area. We always work to resolve family issues with a minimum of conflict and by way of agreement wherever possible, avoiding the need for court hearings.

For tailored advice and representation, speak to one of our expert family law solicitors in London and across the South East now by calling 020 8017 8962 or contact your local Crisp & Co office.

What rights do fathers have?

Both parents have rights and responsibilities when it comes to their children. The courts do not favour mothers over fathers when deciding family law issues and will always prioritise the best interests of the children in making any decision.

When dealing with fathers’ contact rights or fathers’ custody rights, now referred to as arrangements for children, the courts strike to ensure  children to have a meaningful relationship with both parents where possible.

When making arrangements for children, the starting point is for both parents to share equal care of the child, if that is not possible then the Court would consider it is often the case that a child will live with the parent who has had most of the day to day care of the child to date. This will minimise disruption and it may be that that parent has arranged their working days to be available to look after the child as needed. Because it is often the case that this is the mother, it may seem that mothers are favoured by the courts. This is not the case and the starting point for a court is to give both parents time with the child while trying to ensure stability.

What are the main reasons to stop a father seeing their child?

In some situations, the court may make an order preventing a father from seeing their child. These situations apply to both parents and there will need to be a good reason for this and this reason will need to be linked to the child’s welfare.

Valid reasons to stop child contact include:

  • Domestic abuse
  • Drug or alcohol misuse
  • Criminal activity
  • Other behaviour or activities that could put the child’s wellbeing at risk

Reasons that are not sufficient for the court to end contact include:

  • Refusal to pay child support
  • Dropping a child off late or being late to pick them up
  • Not seeing the child regularly, despite being permitted to do so

How do you legally stop someone from seeing your child?

Withholding a child from another parent is only possible if there is a risk to the child. If you believe someone poses a risk to your child, you can ask the court to make an order stopping them from seeing your child.

The court will investigate the situation before an order is made to ensure that it has as much information as possible. It will usually ask the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) to work with you and your family to prepare a report into the situation.

Cafcass will initially interview both parents and make enquiries of the police and local authority to see whether they have any safeguarding concerns. If the court asks for a report, then Cafcass will meet with both parents as well as the child. The Cafcass officer will take into account issues on the so-called Welfare Checklist, which are:

  • The child’s wishes and feelings in light of their age and understanding of the situation
  • The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
  • The likely effect on the child of any change in their circumstances
  • The child’s age, sex, background and any other relevant characteristic
  • Any harm that the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
  • How capable each parent is of meeting the child’s needs
  • The powers available to the court in dealing with the situation

In turn, the court will also consider these points in reaching its decision in respect of arrangements for the child.

Once the report has been prepared, both parties have the opportunity to object to the recommendations made. It is also possible to report any factual mistakes that may have been made.

How long does a father have to be absent to lose his rights?

A father who has parental responsibility for his child will not lose this because they have been absent, even if this has been for many years. However, this does not mean that they can simply walk back into a child’s life.

If the court is asked to intervene, it will as ever take into account what is in the child’s best interests. Where it believes that it will be beneficial for a child to see their father, the court will usually take recommendations from Cafcass and work to reintroduce the father gradually.

When do fathers have parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility is granted to a father who is married to the child’s mother at the time of the birth or who is named on the child’s birth certificate. A child’s birth mother will also automatically have parental responsibility.

Parental responsibility refers to the rights and responsibilities a parent has in respect of their child and their child’s property. This includes:

  • Providing a home
  • Protecting and maintaining the child
  • Providing discipline
  • Choosing a school
  • Agreeing to medical treatment
  • Naming the child, to include agreeing to a change of name

A father who does not have parental responsibility can gain this either with the agreement of the child’s mother or by applying to the court for a parental responsibility order.

What decisions can a mother make without consulting a father?

Everyone with parental responsibility has the right to be consulted about important decisions made on behalf of the child. This includes:

  • Which school your child will attend
  • What will happen during the school holidays
  • Starting or ending medical treatment
  • At what age a child will be allowed to watch films with particular age ratings, such as those suitable for under-12s or under-18s

Your child’s other parent should be notified of more minor issues, such as routine medical appointments, a weekend away or a school trip.

The most major issues must be agreed upon by both parents, including:

  • Moving overseas with your child
  • Changing your child’s name

If you are relocating within England and Wales, you should also try to secure your child’s other parent’s consent. If you do not, they could apply to the court to try to challenge this.

How will the courts decide when a father can see his child?

It is preferable to make arrangements for your child by agreement with your child’s other parent wherever possible. If you cannot agree on how matters will be dealt with, you will usually have to at least consider mediation as a next step, unless domestic violence is an issue.

We can refer you to a mediator. You will have an initial meeting with them so that they can explain to you how the process will work and how it can be beneficial. You can then choose whether or not to go ahead with mediation.

If you decide to try mediation, the mediator will work with you and your child’s other parent to help you explore the various options for sharing time with your child. You can see the mediator on your own if you prefer and they will shuttle between rooms or virtual meetings to speak to each of you separately.

If mediation is not successful and the court is asked to decide, it will look at what it believes to be in your child’s best interests. In reaching a decision, it will usually work with Cafcass and both the court and Cafcass will consider the issues included on the welfare checklist. The court will make the child arrangements order that it believes to be right for your child and their circumstances.

For more information, see our Child Arrangements Orders page.

Why choose Crisp & Co for fathers’ rights in the UK?

Our family law team have been advising fathers during separation and divorce for over 20 years. As family law specialists, we have in-depth experience and expertise in representing fathers in issues relating to children.

The approach we take is non-confrontational wherever possible. We will explore alternative methods of dispute resolution to try to resolve matters without the need for court hearings. This could be by supporting and advising you through mediation or the collaborative law process.

Our team includes members of Resolution, the group for family lawyers committed to resolving issues without conflict, as well as trained collaborative lawyers.

Finding a solution out of court has many benefits. It is generally faster and can help you and your child’s other parent work together to find the right outcome for your family. It is more cost-effective than the court process and can prevent a relationship from degenerating, which is particularly important where children are involved and you will both be sharing the parenting.

We understand how stressful it can be to deal with the breakdown of a relationship when you have children. You will find our family solicitors to be understanding and approachable. We will always do all we can to secure the best possible outcome for your family and make the process as low-stress as possible.

Get in touch with our fathers’ rights solicitors in London & South East England

For representation and advice on fathers’ rights in the UK, please ring to speak to one of our experts and we will be happy to help.

You can contact our fathers’ rights solicitors in London and across the South East now by calling 020 8017 8962 or contacting your local Crisp & Co office.