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The Law and Single Mothers

By: Anna Martin - Updated: 15 Jan 2017 | 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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Girl next door - Your Question:
HiIm a single mother my daughter is turning 5 years this year and her father left me when she was 2 years old and also left her, basically he ran. His parents forced him to pay maintenance of which he paid for a while and stopped in the 5 years he has seen my child less than 6 times has shown no intrest in birthdays, clothes school fees nothing I do everything on my own. He took me to court after being absent im still not sure for what because he never bothered to come and didn't even call to cancel the appointment. this is actually the 3rd year he hasn't been to see our child he doesn't even call. recently when my sisters kids visited n they were bust calling their dad my daughter said mom where is my own father my heart broke n I phoned him but he sounded like he was not interested and recently found out he has another little one. my question is I wanna change my child'ssurname back to mine and also cancel his rights as a father cos clearly he has no intentions of being an father. thank u.

Our Response:
If your ex is earning a wage and pays tax via the HMRC, then he is under an obligation to pay for the upkeep of your child, please see link here. Regardless of whether your ex sees your child, he is still legally the father and it is rare a court will revoke parental responsibility, and you would no longer be able to claim child maintenance. With regards to changing your child's surname legally by deedpoll you would have to apply for his consent and if he refuses take the matter to court. However, you can change your daughter's name informally in the meantime i.e school, doctors etc if you wish. Please see link here.
ChildSupportLaws - 16-Jan-17 @ 12:45 PM
Hi Im a single mother my daughter is turning 5 years this year and her father left me when she was 2 years old and also left her, basically he ran. His parents forced him to pay maintenance of which he paid for a while and stopped in the 5 years he has seen my child less than 6 times has shown no intrest in birthdays, clothes school fees nothing I do everything on my own. He took me to court after being absent im still not sure for what because he never bothered to come and didn't even call to cancel the appointment. this is actually the 3rd year he hasn't been to see our child he doesn't even call. recently when my sisters kids visited n they were bust calling their dad my daughter said mom where is my own father my heart broke n I phoned him but he sounded like he was not interested and recently found out he has another little one. my question is I wanna change my child'ssurname back to mine and also cancel his rights as a father cos clearly he has no intentions of being an father. thank u.
Girl next door - 15-Jan-17 @ 7:19 PM
I have been to the family mediation but it didn't work. My ex is bringing the baby back late at night.Whenever i speak about it he uses abusive words against me.And he's always shouting.Now he's taking me to court.What do you think will happen?
Kk - 13-Jan-17 @ 7:15 PM
Moody - Your Question:
My ex also is taking me to court not sure what for yet we had meditation which ended has it wasn't working so now he's taking me to court he reckons the baby will end up in his name ?? I messages from him which to me look like he's using our child has a battle weapon ??

Our Response:
If mediation hasn't ended well, then your ex will have the option to take the matter to court for either access, contact or residency. The court will then make a decision based upon what it thinks is in the best interests of your child. It is rare the court will grant residency (custody) to a child the parent doesn't normally live with. However, whatever court order the judge decides upon, the arrangement will become official and non-changeable, and both parents will have to adhere strictly to the terms of it.
ChildSupportLaws - 9-Jan-17 @ 2:29 PM
Caroline - Your Question:
Me and my baby's father split up a year ago when she was 7 months olds as I found out he had slept with another woman and got her pregnant ( he is currently refusing to take a paternity test for the other child). Since then he has barely seen her and continues to go out every week end, drink to excess and take drugs! I want sole parental responsibility because I do not trust him with her and feel she may be put in danger! How do I go about this! He is on her birth certificate

Our Response:
If you are the primary carer, and you feel you do not trust your ex with your child, then you can stop access. Your ex would then have the option to take the matter to court. You in turn would then have to prove through court why you think he is not capable of unsupervised access. As a rule it is rare a court will revoke parental responsibility, but a court will always decide what it thinks is in the best interests of your child and it will decide based upon evidence collected whether your ex will be allowed supervised or unsupervised access. The court will want to know what type of drug you allege he uses and the court may order a drugs test. Unlike Class A drugs, attitudes to cannabis vary and occasional use may not be considered detrimental to a contact application.
ChildSupportLaws - 9-Jan-17 @ 11:55 AM
My ex also is taking me to court not sure what for yet we had meditation which ended has it wasn't working so now he's taking me to court he reckons the baby will end up in his name ?? I messages from him which to me look like he's using our child has a battle weapon ??
Moody - 9-Jan-17 @ 3:34 AM
Me and my baby's father split up a year ago when she was 7 months olds as I found out he had slept with another woman and got her pregnant ( he is currently refusing to take a paternity test for the other child). Since then he has barely seen her and continues to go out every week end, drink to excess and take drugs! I want sole parental responsibility because I do not trust him with her and feel she may be put in danger! How do I go about this! He is on her birth certificate
Caroline - 8-Jan-17 @ 12:48 PM
Hi, I have a 13 month old son.. His dad was involved up untill he was 9 weeks then only seen 6 times thru out this year and only 1 hour contact in last 16 weeks. His been offered contact every few days and refuses but says his taking me court. Would this go anywhere? How could I go about sole custody as his on the birth certificate? Thanks
ConcernedMum89 - 27-Dec-16 @ 11:09 PM
Han - Your Question:
HiMy husband left us recently. We have 3kids together and mortgage on house where I live with kids at the moment. He ran away with young women and lives in share house. He pays me some money monthly (thanks to his good will) and I have been given some support from government.Well I work part time and juggle care of three children house and work. My husband doesn't want to be with children and doesn't visit us. My question is can I get some free lawyers support ? Thank you

Our Response:
You can see more via the Child Law Advice link here.
ChildSupportLaws - 23-Dec-16 @ 11:24 AM
Hi My husband left us recently. We have 3kids together and mortgage on house where I live with kids at the moment. He ran away with young women and lives in share house. He pays me some money monthly (thanks to his good will) and I have been given some support from government. Well i work part time and juggle care of three children house and work . My husbanddoesn't want to be with children and doesn't visit us . My question is can I get some free lawyers support ? Thank you
Han - 22-Dec-16 @ 2:36 PM
Hi, I'll try keep this brief... My ex husband walked out in my baby and I and basically ran away with his affair. He is still with her. He lives hundreds of miles away and also works off shore for periods of time. I support contact every second weekend. My son is 4. He has this at his mums who lives in same town as us. He has him all day but returns at night as I don't think overnight is appropriate as routine is very important to my child and as contact can sometimes not be every second weekend and have month gaps it is not fair on my son. He loves his dad I support that access. Now he constantly threatens me treating his son as an object he should be able to pick up and put down as he pleases. He also has said he will involve his new partner with him which I am strongly against as he should be developing g a relationship with him not involving other people. My son also has had developmental issues and change and lack of structure deeply effects him even his preschool know when he has spent time with his father because he is a bit "off" for a few days. He is threatening me constantly with "his rights" but my point is that he made the decision to leave I support contact and we are entitled to live our lives and not be controlled by him now. I feel constantly threatened and emotionally harassed by him and it is affecting us. I know he has PR as we were married but all I've asked I've makes this work and not hard?! I'm not able to continue constantly being threatened by him especially when the fact is he works away, lives away and ultimately made this choice to leave! What can I do to protect us now? I am emotionally exhausted and sick of him abusing me and threatening me because of his decisions! Thanks
Ferv - 22-Dec-16 @ 12:16 PM
My ex is taking me to court over our little one. We was not married and only in a relationship for 6 months. We had split up for most of the pregnancy. He wants a contact order, to be put on birth certificate, change her surname and parental rights. He has never given her any personal care, shows no interest in her daily routine, what food she eats, what size nappies or clothes. Nothing. He turns up at the weekend, what ever day suits him and whatever time he decides. He lives in a caravan, in the middle of a field with electric and water. He has no room for her. No equipment of any kind for her. The last and only time I took her up there she had an eye infection due to the place not being very clean. He has threatened me with court ever since we found out I was pregant with her.... I'm at my wits end. I don't know what to expect or what I'm going to be made to agree to. I'm still breast feeding her of a evening time. I don't want her being made to stay somewhere that is not suitable for her. Where do I stand??
Worried mam - 15-Dec-16 @ 11:18 PM
Sophie - Your Question:
I have recently separated from my adulterous husband and have started divorce proceedings. He has never initiated contact with our 3 young children however I have arranged he has them one evening a week. I just feel very resentful and powerless that I still have to let him see the children when I do everything and he never shows any interest in them. I just want him out of my life and I don't see why I have to let him have the children when he just isn't bothered. Now I have started the once a week visit I feel that I want to stop it and see if he actually makes the effort to see them. Can I stop the visitations as they are currently do I have the right to do that? I just want him to make some effort off his own back.

Our Response:
Children should never be used as a weapon, or tools for bribery, or as bargaining tools. When you split from your husband it is only natural that you will have some very raw emotions. But, because you have children together, the situation is not only about the two of you but also about the wellbeing of your children and that is what you need to focus on. When emotions are running high it is difficult to be amicable with your ex. However, as the father of your children he is more than likely always going to be in your life and you need to find a way to get on. If you cannot come to any kind of truce on your own then it is a very good idea for you and your ex to seek some mediation. This allows an objective onlooker to work with you both and find some common communication for the benefit of your children. We cannot instruct you what you can and cannot do - therefore, if you wish to stop your ex having contact with your children, that is up to you. However, your ex will have the option to take the matter to court and if awarded a court order, then it would be you who would be instructed by the courts to strictly adhere to it.
ChildSupportLaws - 7-Dec-16 @ 2:54 PM
I have recently separated from my adulterous husband and have started divorce proceedings. He has never initiated contact with our 3 young children however I have arranged he has them one evening a week. I just feel very resentful and powerless that I still have to let him see the children when I do everything and he never shows any interest in them. I just want him out of my life and I don't see why I have to let him have the children when he just isn't bothered. Now I have started the once a week visit I feel that I want to stop it and see if he actually makes the effort to see them. Can I stop the visitations as they are currently do I have the right to do that? I just want him to make some effort off his own back.
Sophie - 3-Dec-16 @ 5:25 AM
I have a 15year old son who has lived with me from birth and I have brought him up can help just decide to go and live with myhis dad or can I get him to come home?
Susan - 23-Nov-16 @ 1:19 AM
My childs father works away and is back every 3 weeks. I am unhappy about him working away and not seeing his daughter regulaly and supporting me with having her sometimes. Is there anythin i can do legally to have him back to see and help out with her more.
jj - 22-Nov-16 @ 9:14 PM
My ex husband has unsupervised contact with my daughter at the moment. In the future he wants to take her to his house for sleepovers. My question is, can my daughter go to sleep at his house when there are four other people living there? As he only rents a room in that house but shares the house with other people. My ex husband wants to rent a room for my daughter in the house from his landlord where from Monday - Friday, a woman lives in that room. He wants to rent that room over the weekend for my daughter to sleep in. Should someone check who lives in that house and should my daughter have her own room rather than sleep in someone else room? Who can check this or should I tell someone? Because I'm worried about my daughters safety.
Aga - 18-Nov-16 @ 12:22 PM
SuperMom - Your Question:
I have 2 amazing daughters 9 and 7, in a almost 11 years relationship unmarried, living together. We bought a house 8 years ago and I'm not on the mortgage or any of the utilities bills although I have put in thousands depositing into his bank account to help out. I do have a great job for almost 8 years my kids are under my insurances and care at this moment but I'm not sure what to do from here.Almost 3 weeks ago he left without any notification to his mom house. I try to reach out by text never reply to me until the past week and he finally stated that the reason that left is because he was unhappy, he also said for me to stay in the house with the girls, but he has drinking problems and a mom that support him, he is been very verbally abused with and so is physical in the past. I'm not sure what to do! or what kind of lawyer to contact.He also has medical conditions (epilepsy) so this is such issue for me for him to take the girls. Thank you for listening!

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. You would need to seek legal advice from a 'family law' solicitor in order to ascertain your position. As we are a UK-based site, we only have knowledge of UK-based family law and it sounds as though you may not be from the UK. You may have some rights if you have children, and can prove you have put money into the house - but you would have to check your country's laws on cohabiting and separation. Doing some research on the internet should help you out.
ChildSupportLaws - 11-Nov-16 @ 1:43 PM
I have 2 amazing daughters 9 and 7, in a almost 11 years relationship unmarried, living together. We bought a house 8 years ago and I'm not on the mortgage or any of the utilities bills although I have put in thousands depositing into his bank account to help out... I do have a great job for almost 8 years my kids are under my insurances and care at this moment but i'm not sure what to do from here....Almost 3 weeks ago he left without any notification to his mom house. I try to reach out by text never reply to me until the past week and he finally stated that the reason that left is because he was unhappy, he also said for me to stay in the house with the girls, but he has drinking problems and a mom that support him, he is been very verbally abused with and so is physical in the past. I'm not sure what to do! or what kind of lawyer to contact. He also has medical conditions (epilepsy) so this is such issue for me for him to take the girls. Thank you for listening!
SuperMom - 10-Nov-16 @ 6:05 PM
Hdm - Your Question:
My kids Dad is refusing to have them more than once a week, I work full time and is causing a lot of problems financially. He works part time lives 10doors down and pays me £100 a month. Is there any law that forces him to take more of an active role in their lives like he is capable of doing? And supporting me by having them during the holidays? I realise this is quite unusual.

Our Response:
I'm afraid a court will not force a non-resident parent to have contact with their children if the parent does not wish to.
ChildSupportLaws - 24-Oct-16 @ 11:44 AM
Hi, I was servery sexaully and emotionally abused by my ex for years at a young age. I had a mental breakdown and passed over my daughter to my family to look after as I was unable to cope, no courts were involved, she's just considered legally passed over. I found out that my family gave my daughter to my ex who I'm divorced from and as they're no proof he's abusive since I was in too much fear and reported him later they're wasn't enough evidence and the social services gave my daughter to my ex without informing me. I'm still mentally unwell suffering from ptsd and don't know how I can handle being connected to this guy for the rest of my life he'll cause problems, I've only just mentally started to get help and my daughter is in the worse place by being with him, he's got alot of money for COurt and i haven'tand is extremly arrogant and feels he can get anything, fools people of who he really is. The fact she's with him and hes the reason Ive had a mental breakdown and I'm still recovering.. What are my rights, can I see her in a peaceful environment without having any contact or problems from this guy and while I'm still recovering what actions can I take to have her with me where I can never have any problems from this guy again and no contact its important for my mental health and for my daughter
Sarah - 23-Oct-16 @ 11:02 PM
My kids Dad is refusing to have them more than once a week, i work full time and is causing a lot of problems financially. He works part time lives 10doors down and pays me £100 a month. Is there any law that forces him to take more of an active role in their lives like he is capable of doing? And supporting me by having them during the holidays? I realise this is quite unusual.
Hdm - 22-Oct-16 @ 6:46 PM
Cat- Your Question:
I've been out of an abusive relationship with my ex partner for 3 years now and we have a 4 year old child together. He has nothing to do with him and doesn't want to which is brilliant for me because I do not want him near my child. I was wondering what I could do to get rid of his parental rights, I need to have a clean slate for me and my child, without worrying he could just 'try' and come into of life again, which would not be safe.

Our Response:
It is rare that a court will revoke parental responsibility. The fact your ex has been out of your child's life for a period of time, means it is unlikley he would be able to apply for unsupervised contact. However, every parent has the right to be able to apply to the courts to see their child, if they choose.
ChildSupportLaws - 19-Oct-16 @ 2:36 PM
I've been out of an abusive relationship with my ex partner for 3 years now and we have a 4 year old child together. He has nothing to do with him and doesn't want to which is brilliant for me because I do not want him near my child. I was wondering what I could do to get rid of his parental rights, I need to have a clean slate for me and my child, without worrying he could just 'try' and come into of life again, which would not be safe.
Cat - 19-Oct-16 @ 8:20 AM
@Sophie33 - if you don't want the day to have any say in your baby's welfare then you don't have to register his name on the birth certificate. This means he will not have parental responsibility and wont be able to take the baby. If he wants PR he would have to apply to court. Jill.
JO - 14-Oct-16 @ 2:42 PM
I am 5 months pregnant by my ex. We were kind of living together but nothing set in stone, anyway we had a fight and he left when I was 8 week pregnant. He lives up north, 4 hours away from London and we barely speak. I am really worried that he will want parental responsibility and therefore be able to gain access to my baby any time he likes, and make decisions on the babies life that I don't want him to. If he was living here still it might be different but being so far away I'm worried he interfere with decisions that are nothing to do with him and also be able to take the baby up north without telling me. I have been looking at sensible access to a newborn and have seen it is short regular visits, but he might take the baby away for a weekend and I wouldn't be able to do anything about it. I'm so worried by all this and cannot sleep or eat. Also he has said he should be at the birth -I don't want this at all! What rights do I have in any of this? If he wants to be a good dad that's one thing, but I'm scare with parental responsibility he can legally take baby away and I can do nothing. Please can you give me some advice?
Sophie33 - 14-Oct-16 @ 9:38 AM
Hello my ex is carrying my baby. She has changed her sername to her exs sername by depol does this mean she can put her exs sername on my child's birth certificate
Mark - 7-Oct-16 @ 6:11 PM
Hello my ex is carrying my baby but she has changed her name by depol to her exs name does this mean she can put her exs sername on my child's birth certificate
Mark - 7-Oct-16 @ 6:09 PM
Kirky - Your Question:
Hi my partner got with his ex when she was already pregnant with her son who is now 8. We have an access order from the court to say we can have access to see him. he is not the child biological father and she is now saying he need to start paying maintenance to her for him coz she is unable to get him anything and is living off 10 pounds a week. But she works and so does her partner and we both work and I have two biological children to him can she make a claim for child support from my partner or not.

Our Response:
Much depends on whether he has Parental Responsibility and/or is registered on the birth certificate. However, if he is proven not to be the biological father by a DNA test or the courts and does not have parental responsibility, then his ex would not be entitled to claim.
ChildSupportLaws - 6-Oct-16 @ 2:51 PM
Hi my partner got with his ex when she was already pregnant with her son who is now 8 . We have an access order from the court to say we can have access to see him .he is not the child biological father and she is now saying he need to start paying maintenance to her for him coz she is unable to get him anything and is living off 10 pounds a week . But she works and so does her partner and we both work and I have two biological children to him can she make a claim for child support from my partner or not .
Kirky - 6-Oct-16 @ 9:36 AM
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