Family structures can be seriously complex, and there aren’t always biological parents in the picture. In fact, some children may be closer to their non-biological parents than their biological, and may never have even met their biological fathers.
Family law gets a little complicated when it comes to defining the different rights of biological fathers and legal fathers, and it is important for each party to know exactly where they stand.
A legal father is someone that has parental responsibility of a child, either by adoption or if they are on the birth certificate.
A biological father however, is the blood-related father of a child, the person who impregnated the mother. They will be the person whose genes get inherited by the child. However, this doesn’t mean that they instantly gain parental responsibility.
How does a biological father get parental responsibility?
A child’s biological father is not automatically considered to be their legal father, and they may not automatically gain parental responsibility.
Biological fathers will gain responsibility only if:
- They are married to the mother either at the time of the birth, or after.
- If they are on the child’s birth certificate, if the registration took place post December 2003.
- Both the mother and father have signed an agreement that gives the father parental responsibility
- A court gives them parental responsibility.
However, more than two people may be able to get parental responsibility of a child at one time, which could be where it gets complicated.
What rights do fathers have?
Unless any of the above reasons apply, the biological father has no legal right towards the child. However, whether they have parental responsibility or not, they still have a duty to support the child financially, even if they have no access to their child.
Everyone with parental responsibility of a child will need to agree on things before they go ahead. The mother can make a decision of little importance, but for bigger changes, everyone that has parental responsibility will need to be consulted.
If they cannot agree on a decision or outcome, then a ‘specific issue order’ can be applied for in court.
Child custody – a father’s rights
Just because someone has parental responsibility of a child does not mean that they can contact the child whenever they want. Child access rights are a whole other issue altogether, but if an agreement can not be made by both parents, then they will need to apply for a ‘child arrangement order’ and it will go to court.
Gaining parental responsibility
If a biological father doesn’t have parental responsibility, then they will need to sign a responsibly agreement with the mother or take it one step further and apply for a court order to discuss it further.
If paternity is an issue, a lawyer can use DNA tests to establish who the biological father is. If you think you need to use a court to decide on your issue of paternity, then it would be best to speak to a professional family lawyer.