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The Law and Single Mothers

By: Anna Martin - Updated: 20 Apr 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Mother Father Parent Child Shared

A mother has parental responsibility for her child and is generally expected to become the parent with care, in the event of a separation or divorce. Whilst providing care for her child allows her to receive maintenance support from the child’s father, to cover the cost of the child’s expenses, a mother’s rights are very much conditioned by her marital status. A married woman will be more financially secure, than a woman who remains unmarried, if she has children and her relationship breaks down.

Mother’s Pride

If the mother’s name is the only name listed on the child’s birth certificate she has sole Parental Responsibility for the child’s welfare. Adding a father’s name to the certificate can only happen if he attends registration. Once the father’s name is registered he will automatically share parental responsibility for the child, assuming that the child is born after 2003. A Parental Responsibility Agreement can be drawn up at a later date if a mother is prepared to share responsibilities with the child’s father, if he was not named on the birth registration form. Our page on What rights does my ex have discusses Parental Responsibility and how to determine it in some detail.

Paternity Confirmation

Most fathers confirm paternity, when asked, which enables the mother – regardless of the brevity of the couple’s relationship - to apply for child support with relative ease. Establishing fatherhood acknowledges shared responsibility and liability for the child, or children. Those non resident fathers who are less willing to provide maintenance assistance for their child however, can be traced by the Child Support Agency (CSA) and have payment enforced.

Mothers’ Rights

A single mother is entitled to claim maintenance from her child’s father, on behalf of the child. She does not have to have shared parental responsibilities with him in order to ask for Child Support payments to be calculated and collected from him. Maintenance agreements can be made privately or can be arranged through the Child Support Agency.

Without shared Parental Responsibility a father cannot have access to his child without the mother agreeing. He may apply for a Contact Order, if communication between the parents has broken down, and should the father want the child to live with him he will have to apply for a Residence Order. However, the court is unlikely to grant a Residence Order to a father for a baby, as this would give him shared Parental Responsibility.

Maintenance Rights

Simply because a father pays maintenance support to the child’s mother periodically it does not mean that he is entitled to see the child. This form of support provides funds to be used towards the cost of raising the child, and should be used to pay for educational and extracurricular activities, shelter, clothing and food.

If the mother and the father have been able to agree a figure for maintenance, it is worth getting the agreement agreed by the court, in case payment enforcement is required at a later date.

Special Circumstances

In cases where the mother became pregnant through artificial insemination, or by third party donor, the partner at the time of birth is accountable for the child’s welfare and is expected to contribute financially.

To find out how child support is assessed take a look at our page How child support is calculated.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Ive just move with my partner when I found out I’m pregnant and he was very happy and helpful for few weeks. After I start being very sick and couldn’t move from the bed so I stop working. Now I’m 16 weeks pregnant and the relation changed completely. He pay rent but live in his own. Never speak with me or stay together in the same room. He told me is not ready for family and all this situation is stressing him. I feel sad and I don’t want to go further with the relation. My question is what’s my rights as a single mum because I have no intention to put him on my baby certificate? How I’m going to afford all the expenses? Is there any help single mums can apply? The flat we live is just under my name. How I’m gonna do everything? I have just 3 years in London so I don’t know what to do.
Laly - 20-Apr-18 @ 10:16 PM
GeekT - Your Question:
My partner has three children by her ex partner who is not paying any support or maintenance and has not attempted to see or visit with the children in 12 months.She would like to move in with me and move the children to a better ofstead rated in my area. But is being told her ex may have to sign off the move what are her rights in this situation

Our Response:
If your partner's ex has parental responsibility of the children (regardless of whether he sees them), then by law your partner has to request his consent. If he refuses, or refuses to discuss the matter via mediation then your partner can apply to court for permission. It is highly likely the court wouldn't refuse, especially if your partner's ex has no input into the children's lives. Your partner could risk making the move without consent and if the father wishes to challenge the matter, he would have the option to apply to court. However,if he has no input into the children's lives by choice, then it is highly unlikely a court would force your partner to return.
ChildSupportLaws - 20-Apr-18 @ 1:51 PM
Gem - Your Question:
Hi myself and partner have recently broke up and have a 2year old son who I primarily look after. My partner is demanding to have him 3 times a week but I am saying it will be two days a week - am I in my rights to do this as I am not stopping contact just saying 2 instead of 3 until a court order is in process. Thank you in advance.

Our Response:
If your ex has joint parental responsibility, you both have joint rights on deciding what you both think is in your child's best interests. If you cannot agree, then your next option is to consider attending mediation in order to come to an agreement this way. Mediation is when two or more parties meet to resolve problems before the matter reaches court. It is most often used in family proceedings, contact orders, residence agreements and divorce. It is a formal negotiation and courts can accept the agreement of the mediation instead of having to go through the court process, although it is subject to final court approval. Mediation takes place in front of a neutral third party. The mediator has no pre-conceptions and will not force you to make an agreement. They will assist the two parties in taking turns in the conversation, and help you reach a decision that you are ready to agree with. Mediators do not pass judgment or offer guidance; they are there, in effect, to facilitate conversation between the two sides. Your partner or you will not be able to apply to court unless agreement has been considered, or attempted, please see link here. If the matter goes to court, the decision will be out of your hands and given over to a judge to decide which may or may not work in your favour. Agreement between both parents is always best, as both of you theoretically have equal rights to care for your child.
ChildSupportLaws - 12-Apr-18 @ 12:25 PM
Hi myself and partner have recently broke up and have a 2year old son who I primarily look after. My partner is demanding to have him 3 times a week but i am saying it will be two days a week - am i in my rights to do this as i am not stopping contact just saying 2 instead of 3 until a court order is in process. Thank you in advance.
Gem - 11-Apr-18 @ 7:19 AM
My partner has three children by her ex partner who is not paying any support or maintenance and has not attempted to see or visit with the children in 12 months. She would like to move in with me and move the children to a better ofstead rated in my area. But is being told her ex may have to sign off the move what are her rights in this situation
GeekT - 6-Apr-18 @ 7:55 PM
Murphy - Your Question:
Can a court enforce a father to have their child after they have periodically over months not show up and left the child distraught as a result ?

Our Response:
A court would never 'force' an unwilling non-resident parent to have their child. As in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the child in question. The court will always put the child’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order.
ChildSupportLaws - 15-Mar-18 @ 2:16 PM
Confused - Your Question:
Hi. My daughter and her ex were never married but stupidly she gave her kids his surname. I would like to know if she has a right to add her name as a double barrel surname as the children and my daughter don't share the same name. Her ex I's likey to refuse this request. Many thanks

Our Response:
You can see more via the link here , which will tell you, that you need both parents with PR to consent to any change of name by Deed Poll.
ChildSupportLaws - 15-Mar-18 @ 2:14 PM
Hi. My daughter and her ex were never married but stupidly she gave her kids his surname.I would like to know if she has a right to add her name as a double barrel surname as the children and my daughter don't share the same name.Her ex I's likey to refuse this request. Many thanks
Confused - 13-Mar-18 @ 8:43 PM
Can a court enforce a father to have their child after they have periodically over months not show up and left the child distraught as a result ?
Murphy - 13-Mar-18 @ 6:39 PM
Nana- Your Question:
My partner and I broke up recently however he took my daughter and locked me out of the property. With no signed tenancy agreement I was told that I couldn't get into the house where my daughter was. The police were called on his behalf to get me taken away from the home even though I wasn't breaching peace or causing any problems. The police said because she's safe and he's surrounded by his family, that I had to leave. My daughter is 6 weeks old and still breastfeeding and I'm only allowed to see her on his terms. Unfortunately I recently put him on the birth certificate so I don't know how I could possibly get my daughter back. Can anyone please help me, I've lost my home, my daughter and my possessions are still in the house. Any help would be much appreciated.

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. Unfortunately, where both parents have Parental Responsibility and one parent is keeping the children against the other's wishes, the police cannot help, it is the remit of the courts. You may wish to speak to Social Services, if you feel your daughter may be at risk. Otherwise, you would have to apply directly to court. If you have concerns about your child and a parent has not returned her, then it may be possible to apply for an emergency Child Arrangements Order. The court can order an interim Child Arrangements Order. This is where the child could be returned to the care of one parent, while a full hearing is ongoing. Please see the Child Law Advice here, which will tell you more. I hope your situation resolves itself soon.
ChildSupportLaws - 26-Feb-18 @ 10:53 AM
My partner and I broke up recently however he took my daughter and locked me out of the property. With no signed tenancy agreement I was told that I couldn't get into the house where my daughter was. The police were called on his behalf to get me taken away from the home even though I wasn't breaching peace or causing any problems. The police said because she's safe and he's surrounded by his family, that I had to leave. My daughter is 6 weeks old and still breastfeeding and I'm only allowed to see her on his terms. Unfortunately I recently put him on the birth certificate so I don't know how I could possibly get my daughter back. Can anyone please help me, I've lost my home, my daughter and my possessions are still in the house. Any help would be much appreciated.
Nana - 25-Feb-18 @ 10:52 AM
Can my illegal friend get free nursery for her 3 year old son.She is a lone parent trafficked from Vietnam and had the baby after she had been here for 3 years. When she arrived she was in the care of social services aged 16.
LR - 23-Feb-18 @ 3:18 PM
Abbbaaaa - Your Question:
Hi, if I split with my children's father who is on the birth certificate (registered together), will the children definitely come with me as I am a permitted occupier so can not stay in the house but can go live with parents while I get a place. I am slightly nervous he will try take them away. If he has the children on weekends and refuses to bring them back, can I get them home through the police the same day? Is it best to set up some kind of plan legally before allowing him contact alone?

Our Response:
Much depends upon what you agree between you both. If you are generally the day-to-day primary carer of your children, then as a rule you would continue to do this (unless your children's father disagrees). If you can agree a working arrangement between you, this will work best. If you cannot, then mediation is the next option to consider. If you cannot agree via mediation, court is always seen as the last resort, please see link here. Both parents with parental responsibility have the same rights to look after the children. If you fear your ex may not return them, then you would have to apply to court to have your children returned. However, it is rare this happens. Most parents agree an access arrangement, or more parents are moving towards shared care.
ChildSupportLaws - 20-Feb-18 @ 12:21 PM
Hi, if I split with my children's father who is on the birth certificate (registered together), will the children definitely come with me as I am a permitted occupier so can not stay in the house but can go live with parents while I get a place. I am slightly nervous he will try take them away. If he has the children on weekends and refuses to bring them back, can I get them home through the police the same day? Is it best to set up some kind of plan legally before allowing him contact alone?
Abbbaaaa - 19-Feb-18 @ 1:28 AM
I am with my husband 10 years, we have two kids, we are both working full time, and we are currently splitting. I was looking for any financial help for me and I can see there is some childcare help for single parents. But I have doubts if I will be a single mum if he will be taking kids for few days a week. But probably kids will be with me most of the time. Can I apply for financiel help as a single mum in this case?
Lilac - 29-Jan-18 @ 10:07 AM
TL - Your Question:
I have been separated from my 2 kids dad for 7 years, we made a arrangement ourselves and he would have ths kids every single weekend, he has since moved about 30mins away and started a new family, he dropped my child maintenance then which I know he can after having another child but then went from having the kids every weekend to every 2 weekends then I'd have them the third. I've also gone from working part time to full time and starting to struggle and really want their dad to have them more, just a week day so I have a break in the week but he leaves for work at 5 in the morning so wouldn't be able to take the children to school but I can't help but think I have to sort out childcare for after school why can't he sort out childcare for before work? If I say anything about him having the kids more he says he cant because of work/family commitments so not sure what I could do?

Our Response:
Your only recourse is to discuss this directly with the father and try to come to an personal arrangement. Unfortunately, that is as far as you can take it as a court would not force the other parent to have the children where the other parent was unwilling. As in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the child in question. The court will always put the child’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order.
ChildSupportLaws - 25-Jan-18 @ 2:40 PM
I have been separated from my 2 kids dad for 7 years, we made a arrangement ourselves and he would have ths kids every single weekend, he has since moved about 30mins away and started a new family, he dropped my child maintenance then which i know he can after having another child but then went from having the kids every weekend to every 2 weekends then I'd have them the third. I've also gone from working part time to full time and starting to struggle and really want their dad to have them more, just a week day so i have a break in the week but he leaves for work at 5 in the morning so wouldn't be able to take the children to school but I can't help but think i have to sort out childcare for after school why can't he sort out childcare for before work? If I say anything about him having the kids more he says he cant because of work/family commitments so not sure what I could do?
TL - 24-Jan-18 @ 10:11 PM
What if you apply for supervised contact, after speaking with caff cass could you ask them to stop access.
Kk - 6-Jan-18 @ 7:34 AM
My ex- partner and father to my 4 year old daughter has frequent ( what I believe to be) undiagnosed mental health episodes when he bombards me with texts and emails which are abusive and threatening (though not of violence.) Usually he threatens to leave and not see our child anymore, or to take me to court for custody and leave with my daughter, and just general abuse. He has also started telling my daughter 'secrets' which ' daddy told me not to tell you' which I find alarming and think is damaging to her emotional well- being. I have called the police before when I received 54 abusive texts by 10am one morning! it's reached the stage when it's become unbearable, especially as it's interspersed with 'friendly' episodes, even a few hours later where he denies all knowledge of the abuse. Is there anything I can do to stop it? It is seriously diminishing my quality of life and I believe affecting my daughters too. My older daughter is still traumatised by the emotional abuse she witnessed when we were still together.
Fiona - 5-Jan-18 @ 11:27 AM
The dad is on the birth certificate. He's being unreasonable and we can't come to an amicable solution for access. He's threatened court and sole custody due to my mental health. He will suggest I cannot look after our daughter. What are my rights. I live with my mum and dad who are being extremely supportive.
Woo - 1-Jan-18 @ 5:29 PM
What if you make an application for supervised contact, at the court could you change it to no contact at all.Can you change a process of a court application at the hearing.
Kk - 31-Dec-17 @ 4:25 AM
Tony- Your Question:
Hi what if you put a application in that you don't want to have contact with the other person, but he can still see is child, can you tell me what could be done with this case, what are the procedures?

Our Response:
If the other person does not not agree to not having contact, then you can request this via a solicitor's letter and if the person ignores this, you could either suggest mediation and if this is not accepted, you would have to apply to court.
ChildSupportLaws - 21-Dec-17 @ 1:01 PM
Hi what if you put a application in that you don't want to have contact with the other person, but he can still see is child, can you tell me what could be done with this case, what are the procedures?
Tony - 19-Dec-17 @ 6:13 PM
@Sarah - you would have to get permission from the court if the child's father won't give it.
Ol - 15-Dec-17 @ 3:56 PM
I would like to get some advice about taking my son to America for a holiday. I have sole responsibility for him and have done from day one. His fathers name is on his birth certificate but he was born before 2003 and so his father has no parental responsibility. America want a letter from the absent parent but in my eyes he has never been a parent and never paid for his son. I have contacted him to ask for a letter to take but he has refused. Where do I stand with taking him to America? Is there a way around getting some sort of letter stating he has no responsibility?
Sarah - 13-Dec-17 @ 11:00 PM
@Steph - you don't have to put his name on the birth certificate, that means he has no rights. But, he can apply to court then for access and parental responsibility. So, it's always best to come to some sort of agreement.
JackV - 12-Dec-17 @ 12:49 PM
So I'm currently pregnant I'm moving back home which is two hours away from my ex, as without him there full time I wouldn't have the support I would have back home. So I have decided being back home with my family would be best for both me and the baby.He seperated from me when I was 12 week gone, since then he doesn't think he needs to be there apart from antenatal appointments and I hear off of him maybe twice a month. I don't want my baby to have his second name and I'm wondering if I can do that? Also I'm worried he will want to bring the baby to his house (2 hours away) when he starts having her rather than staying up with me, I really don't feel comfortable her being that far away from me when she will be so young. From his current actions and as far as I'm aware he's currently homeless and jobless. Im not sure he would make the effort to come that far but I don't want him dictating where he has her. Is there anything I could do about this?
Steph - 11-Dec-17 @ 8:15 PM
Kk - Your Question:
If the other person hit me, would he been given a supervised visit with the child, what is the procedure in this case.

Our Response:
Much depends upon the circumstances, whether the 'other person' has been charged etc. You may wish to seek some legal advice regarding this. Citizens Advice Bureau may also be able to help here with some free advice.
ChildSupportLaws - 11-Dec-17 @ 9:31 AM
If the other person hit me, would he been given a supervised visit with the child, what is the procedure in this case.
Kk - 9-Dec-17 @ 5:26 PM
Kk - Your Question:
What if the other party doesn't want to attend mediation.

Our Response:
Then you would have the opportunity to apply to court. As in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the child/children in question. The court will always put the children's best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order.
ChildSupportLaws - 30-Nov-17 @ 2:57 PM
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