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The Law and Single Mothers

By: Anna Martin - Updated: 3 Dec 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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[Add a Comment]
Hi I would like to know if there is a law for divorced mothers with 5 year old kid put my hours at work when they suit me! I feel some of my colleagues see it that I benefit more than them because I divorced and I tell my manager the hours I can work and day and also most weekends I am off! The type of work I do need work weekends too! I also feel bad about it! Is any law that I can do that?
JW - 3-Dec-18 @ 9:58 PM
Hi. my son’s father and i separated whe he was 18 mos. his name is on birt certificate. as a resident parent, can i stop him n my ex’s family contact with my son? what are my rights as a resident parent?
RUBY - 1-Dec-18 @ 6:09 AM
Where do I stand if we own a home together and the relationship breaks down? My ex partners parents helped put money down for the house, I will be left with very little. He has a history of mental health and drinking issues, I’m unemployed. Please help.
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voirel - 22-Aug-18 @ 8:27 AM
I have recently been to court twice, at the moment the other parent is telling me that he can no longer have contact on the days he wants to have contact., recently she had contact she came to me taking about her private part. Social services got involve. I don't know if a court order is going to say send the child back when the mother is not comfortable with the order anymore.
Kk - 16-Aug-18 @ 6:07 PM
Alex - Your Question:
Hi, my ex partner hasn’t see our children for 2 years now and today has decided he wants to see them again, I find this very stressful as he has coursed so much pain to my oldest, he suffers with anxiety and never has been able to deal with change very well, this is due to his ‘father’ always breaking promises to him, always falling to sleep while both my children were in his care, constantly walking in and out of his life up until two years ago, it’s taken me two years of hard work to build my sons confidence up and to actually get him to stop making himself sick on school trips because he genuinely feels like he will never see me again, two years of trying to get him to join in on after school clubs, how is this fair on my son to let the waste of space back in his life, please bare in mind I’ve heard plenty of times that he wants to change for my boys but never has done just sits and plays blame game, I fought for 4 years for him to be apart of their lives and he didn’t care, never showed willing even offered mediation, the ‘father’ is on both of my sons birth certificates, does this mean I’ve no rights to stop him from seeing them or is their anything I can do to stop him as I don’t want my oldest having to go through all the rubbish again, thanks

Our Response:
If you cannot agree with your ex or refuse to attend mediation, then your ex can apply to court, please see the link here. 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 - 3-Aug-18 @ 2:08 PM
Hi, my ex partner hasn’t see our children for 2 years now and today has decided he wants to see them again, I find this very stressful as he has coursed so much pain to my oldest, he suffers with anxiety and never has been able to deal with change very well, this is due to his ‘father’ always breaking promises to him, always falling to sleep while both my children were in his care, constantly walking in and out of his life up until two years ago, it’s taken me two years of hard work to build my sons confidence up and to actually get him to stop making himself sick on school trips because he genuinely feels like he will never see me again, two years of trying to get him to join in on after school clubs, how is this fair on my son to let the waste of space back in his life, please bare in mind I’ve heard plenty of times that he wants to change for my boys but never has done just sits and plays blame game, I fought for 4 years for him to be apart of their lives and he didn’t care, never showed willing even offered mediation, the ‘father’ is on both of my sons birth certificates, does this mean I’ve no rights to stop him from seeing them or is their anything I can do to stop him as I don’t want my oldest having to go through all the rubbish again, thanks
Alex - 2-Aug-18 @ 11:12 PM
Milsey - Your Question:
I have the opposite problem to most. My childs Father and I separated due to his behaviour. He is named on the BC but we we're not married. The opposite problem is that he is very obsessive of our child and visits everyday from 5-7pm since our seperation 4 years ago. I find it extremely stressful as he comes into the home smothers our child with the kind of attention that's very needy and disabling & doesn't parent in an enabling wah. He emotionally neglected me and refuses to communicate with at all, thus setting a terrible role to my son. When I suggest he changes the times he out right refuses and says he already hardly sees him. It is exhausting for our child to entertain him for that length of time everyday but the Father refuses to acknowledge that.Our Son is 5 and likes seeing him but wants me around for the parenting. Also if I left them, I'd never have any quality time myself. As our child goes to school he comes when I'm trying to get on with dinner, bath homework for school etc and it really interferes with those timings.What are my rights regarding saying it's to much as our time is being dictated by him? I have no quality of life and I feel I'm being totally controlled even though separated.

Our Response:
Mediation may be an option for you to consider in order to arrange set times. You don't say whether your ex has time away from your home with your child. If not, perhaps this should be encouraged i.e to take him from 5-7pm several times per week.
ChildSupportLaws - 23-Jul-18 @ 2:06 PM
I have the opposite problem to most. My childs Father and I separated due to his behaviour. He is named on the BC but we we're not married. The opposite problem is that he is very obsessive of our child and visits everyday from 5-7pm since our seperation 4 years ago. I find it extremely stressful as he comes into the home smothers our child with the kind of attention that's very needy and disabling & doesn't parent in an enabling wah. He emotionally neglected me and refuses to communicate with at all, thus setting a terrible role to my son. When I suggest he changes the times he out right refuses and says he already hardly sees him. . It is exhausting for our child to entertain him for that length of time everyday but the Father refuses to acknowledge that. Our Son is 5 and likes seeing him but wants me around for the parenting. Also if I left them, I'd never have any quality time myself. As our child goes to school he comes when I'm trying to get on with dinner, bath homework for school etc and it really interferes with those timings. What are my rights regarding saying it's to much as our time is being dictated by him? I have no quality of life and I feel I'm being totally controlled even though separated.
Milsey - 23-Jul-18 @ 11:09 AM
Kel - Your Question:
Hi my sons dad was in contact with him and use to see him until my son had an op. His parents dad passed away when he was meant to come visit his son he let his son down and he didnt care that his son had to go back to hospital he hasnt tried to call to see how he got on or anythink. What are my rights as I dont wanna let him see his son after what he has done.

Our Response:
If you stop access, then please see the link here which shows the process if your child's father does not agree.
ChildSupportLaws - 17-Jul-18 @ 2:23 PM
Hi my sons dad was in contact with him and use to see him until my son had an op. His parents dad passed away when he was meant to come visit his son he let his son down and he didnt care that his son had to go back to hospital he hasnt tried to call to see how he got on or anythink. What are my rights as i dont wanna let him see his son after what he has done.
Kel - 15-Jul-18 @ 10:23 PM
Smile - Your Question:
Hi, my marriage is breaking down due to my husbands behavior. I’m living here on spouse visa but my child is British through him. He wants me to leave so he can be free from all his responsibilities & said he will not pay me or my child for anything & he will cancel my visa. He has made me spend all my savings by emotional blackmail & now that I have no savings left he’s trying to get rid of me ASAP by abusing me verbally & emotionally. I want to know my legal Rights & what am I entitled too if I continue living in the UK as a single parent?

Our Response:
You would have to inform the Home Office is you separate, please see link here , in which case you may be asked to leave the country or apply for another visa.
ChildSupportLaws - 19-Jun-18 @ 3:26 PM
Hi, my marriage is breaking down due to my husbands behavior. I’m living here on spouse visa but my child is British through him. He wants me to leave so he can be free from all his responsibilities & said he will not pay me or my child for anything & he will cancel my visa.He has made me spend all my savings by emotional blackmail & now that I have no savings left he’s trying to get rid of me ASAP by abusing me verbally & emotionally. I want to know my legal Rights & what am I entitled too if I continue living in the UK as a single parent?
Smile - 19-Jun-18 @ 1:00 PM
Just a quick question please, I have had some problems with a Custody case a couple of years ago.. Basically, while my daughter was living with me - I was Stalked by a woman, and a man that she was involved with. This woman has bothered me for a number of years - and she manipulated a Manager that I worked for. At the time, I reported it to the police as I had relocated from one place to another and according to the Stalking guidelines - it is deemed to be and is Stalking. I became quite stressed about this at the time, and it resulted in quite a few things happening to me whilst living inNottingham...I kept reporting them to the police and also mentioned the manager this woman was seeing. Unfortunately, my daughter - Hollie could see that I was quite upset about it, and expressed concern with a Teacher at her School. This resulted in the Social workers getting involved with this.. They came to visit me, and as I had relocated from One city to another because of previous problems from them, and her behaviour - quoting that Hollie's Dad was a paedophile, I discussed this with the Social workers. This woman for a long period of time had been doing Strange things to my daughter and this was described with the Social workers.. The man (manager) didn't admit seeing this woman and said I was delusional.. It then got very nasty and I had to and my daughter Hollie had experience a not very nice time... I had recently Sold my house, because of things that had already happened and not being able to afford to keep it, and other complications and because of all the awful rumours that had gone round I decided that the only solution would be to put this awful accusation to bed and get to the bottom of it. My daughter Hollie had to live with my parents 3 days a week and 2 days was excluded for a period of time whilst I was sent to hospital being accused of being delusional (there is no truth in this), but I don't think the Social workers knew how to deal with this. After a 26 weekSafeguarding exercise through the Courts - Hollie (my daughter), was advised that her Dad was going for FullCustody of Hollie and he was granted this at the end of the court hearing. There was so many complications over this period, Hollie didn't really get a fair say in where she wanted to live - She wanted to go home with me... I'm advising you this because i think it was a very unfair trial and the Man in question was not a very nice person..splitting the mother and daughter up! Since this time, this happened in 2015 - I Have had various problems since with this woman and man and it has been all reported to the police. My question is; Hollie's dad has refused me to find out information about Hollie's schooling - which I am very disappointed in - as I worked very closely with Hollie for a number of years when she lived with me and she was doing great. What legal rights do I have with regards to the access of Hollie's Schooling as a Mother? I looked a
Susan - 8-May-18 @ 2:49 PM
Hi. I've been married but separated for years and neither of us have started divorce proceedings. My ex lives abroad and we don't have much contact. Now I'm 6 month pregnant with another guy's baby with whom I'm no longer in a relationship - I only found out he was married after I got pregnant. He wants to be involved though, physically as well as financially. He wants to be on the baby's birth certificate as well as having both of our names hyphenated for the child and as despite of circumstances we're still friendly and dealing with the situation as adults, I'm okay with that. Now, would we have any issues having his name on the birth certificate, knowing that legally I'm still married to someone else?
Betti - 5-May-18 @ 9:46 PM
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
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