A heads up!
This legal Information section does not cover all legal matters that a dad might be involved in or want to know about. It simply tries to give you a bit of information about some of the common legal topics that dads have asked about.
What is Parental Responsibility (PR)?
• Parental responsibility is a legal term used to describe the status that an adult can have in relation to a child. It’s important because it gives an adult all the rights and responsibilities of a parent.
• Having parental responsibility gives a dad the right to be involved in making decisions about his child’s future. This includes having a say in how his children are brought up, being able to give consent for medical treatment, and being involved in many more important decisions in their children’s lives.
• You have parental responsibility if you were at the Registry Office and put your name on your child’s birth certificate, or if you and your child’s mum were married when your baby was born.
• If you are unsure if you have parental responsibility or would like to find out how to get it, you can contact any of the services at the bottom of this page.
What is child maintenance?
Child maintenance is regular financial support that helps towards a child’s everyday living costs for parents who live apart. It is also sometimes called child support. The parent who doesn’t have the main day-to-day care of the child pays child maintenance to the other parent.
• If you don’t live with your child’s other parent and would like further information on child maintenance, visit the www.cmoptions.org website.
Access and contact
These two words mean the same thing. ‘Access’ is the old legal term for what we now call ‘contact’, which concerns the arrangements for sorting out the way in which a child can keep in touch with the parent that they do not live with. This might include face-to-face visits, phone calls, letter writing, and so on. Many parents sort this out between themselves, but some go to court or use an organisation or company because they can’t agree or because they think it will be easier.
• For dads, this means the medical procedure used to ‘prove’ whether a child is their biological child or not.
• This procedure can be asked for by a court, or can be something that is wanted by either parent, for personal reasons.
• If a court orders you to do a DNA test, they will arrange it for you.
It’s worth remembering that laws change regularly, so it’s important to stay up-to-date on legal matters which affect your child’s care.
• Visit www.gov.uk, then follow the link to the ‘Births, deaths, marriages and care’ page. This provides up-to-date information on many of the topics covered in this section.
• Your local Family Information Service (FIS) will be able to give you suggestions on where to get free or impartial legal advice. For information on contacting your nearest FIS, go to the https://findyourfis.familyandchildcaretrust.org website and type in your local authority/council details.
• You could also try the Citizens’ Advice Bureau on 03444 111 444 or find your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau by entering your postcode or town on the www.citizensadvice.org.uk homepage.
• www.gingerbread.org.uk is a UK charity providing expert advice, practical support and campaigns for single parents, and www.onlydads.org offers free advice and access to legal help to single dads.
• Visit your local Children’s Centre. To find it, go to the www.gov.uk/find-sure-start-childrens-centre webpage.
• Don’t forget that it’s always worth talking to your Health Visitor.
• Try an internet search, but remember to look for facts, not opinions, and always check that you’re on a site offering advice on English law!