Home > Related Laws > The Law and Single Mothers

The Law and Single Mothers

Author: Anna Martin - Updated: 24 February 2015 | commentsComment
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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@pete - I have redirected you to one of our partner sites, Separated Dads which can give you plenty of advice. You could apply for a specific issue order through the courts, if you can't agree between you and your ex and you feel strongly about retaining the stability they have in their current schools. See link here. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 26-Feb-15 @ 12:14 PM
@Mel - you can contact the Child Benefit Office here to see if he is claiming money on your behalf, link here. I have also added another link herewhere you can see if you can also get help if the paying parent lives in the UK and you live abroad. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 26-Feb-15 @ 11:13 AM
@Malexi Yes, you can nominate a guardian in the event of anything happening to you. If you don't want your ex to have custody, you should explain why in your will or in a letter included with your will (it is better that this is lodged with a solicitor) . You can also give a coy to the person(s) you have nominated as guardians. A court of law would take this nomination and your wishes seriously should it be contested. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 25-Feb-15 @ 11:25 AM
Ok,a lot of the comments on here are mum's asking questions to do with the law, but how do dad stand in all this.I have two boys, 5 and 7 and me and their mum split up over two years ago.It was a mutual split and I left the family home to move back into my mothers where we all lived before we found a house together.From this point on we have agreed that there would be 50/50 responsibility of the boys, yet i seem to have them in my care more at the moment.Over the christmas period for example I had the boys nearly 80% of the holidays.both me and my partner work full time in stable jobs, have our own transport and provide everything for the boys they need in realtion to uniform, clothing, etc on an equal basis to their mum.This past week their mum has been given notice on the house she is living in and can only afford a council house but this may involve her moving out of the area she currently lives in to a neighbouring town.The boys are both at the same school and an application for a junior school place has gone in for the school right across from the infants for September.The idea has been passed that she may change the boys schools to the new area as she cannot afford to get them to school every day because of the cost.How do I stand on this being their father, wanting them to stay at a stable school where they both enjoy attending?
pete - 24-Feb-15 @ 1:55 PM
My son's father is British and lives in the Bristol. I live in Africa. He has not been supporting his son over 2 to 3 years now. My son was born the UK but I moved back to Africa with him when he was aobut 5 months. I spoke to him and he couldn't be bothered. Is there any way I can sue from while I'm this side and how do I go about. And I also suspect he is getting child support from the government in the UK. I'm desperate as I don't think I should go through this alone and he couldn't care any. Desperate mother
Mel - 24-Feb-15 @ 10:40 AM
Hi, I would like some advice, please. I have 2 children with my ex. one was born in the UK and the other one in Chile. He is named as the father on both birth certificates. We have separated and I am now living in the UK with the children and he is still living in Chile (he is British). He does send money for his children, but my concern is 1. If anything happens to me I do not the children to live with him. They are happy and settled here but he wouldn't think twice about removing them back to Chile or the US where he may be moving to. Can I nominate a family member to take care of the children in the event of my death without him having to agree to it? 2. If he wants the children to fly out to him, can I refuse to do this? Thank you.
Malexi - 23-Feb-15 @ 8:32 AM
@I'm doing my best - I think in the first instance that you should arrange to sit down with him and negotiate the issues you feel. If you can't get any joy from that and he keeps messing around then you could tell him you are going to take him to court in order to get fixed times due to his actions. He can't keep messing you around and he needs to know that you are serious, because it is impacting on your life.
Honey - 20-Feb-15 @ 12:11 PM
Hi, I would like some help or advice I'm a full time employed worker & single mum & after splitting with my daughter's father 15 months ago, Although it was all he's doing for going off and leaving me with our daughter and also his own son from previous relationship for 6 months to run the house, do school runs, pay bills and for myself to look for new home while he was acting adultery. I was reluctant under his new way to allow my daughter to see him until my daughter was settled in her new environment. Following from that I sat down and worked out dates for practically most part of the year (2015) for him to see his daughter and he agreed to those dates he also sees her once a week for a stay over (Which I think all the above are fair considering his actions) & that the problem I am faced with is he thinks he can just make last minute changes to the arrangements I have made with my childminder etc to keep her extra days without my permission & just tells me he's told my childminder & she's ok...I then feel totally out of control. I feel that ever since we split he doesn't like it that I am in control and will do anything to make my life harder to make out that he's in control. I am not the one that left the relationship. I'm trying to be fair but also consistent with my daughter. He pays maintenance that goes straight to my childminder for childcare cost but not one penny more come for extra activities/uniform etc. Please help/advise.
I'm doing my best - 19-Feb-15 @ 10:06 AM
@Pleasehelp - I'm not condoning the behaviour of your ex, if he is as you say he is, but every father deserves the chance to see their children and be a part of their lives. Sometimes fathers are driven to act this way because they find it very difficult to get to see their children and they behave badly through frustration. It may be that he wanted no responsibility at first because you got pregnant when you weren't even in a relationship, so it is understandable that he may not have been encouraging about you keeping your child. Also, if he had wanted to have parental responsibility he could have taken it to court, regardless of whether you allowed him on the birth certificate or not. I can understand you not wanting to take your son overnight as he is still very young, but you may have to concede to some sort of access and contact with your child, as otherwise it is cruel.
Alex - 18-Feb-15 @ 2:40 PM
I was at university when I found out I was pregnant, I was never with the father, we were just friends. When I told him he said it wasn't his problem then tried his hardest to make me have an abortion. He made my life hell, to the point I dropped out before completing the year. I moved back home. He harrassed me throughout my pregnancy, calling me in the middle of the night, drunk. I blocked his number and tried to make it impossible to contact me any more because of this. Two days before I gave birth he got in touch with me, after I had the baby I did let him know and he asked to see my son. I allowed him, I thought it best to at least give him the chance. He was suspiciously nice, my friends and family all warned me but I was vulnerable and emotional due to just having a baby so I couldn't see it and we quickly became friends. He told me he had feelings for me and wanted to be a family, I didn't trust him completely after everything but I was blind enough to believe him. I put him on the birth certificate and after that things started to change. About a month after my son was born he stopped calling all the time, texting etc. he still came to see the baby but it was clear how he had been was an act to get responsibility. After this, the phonecalls at 3am started, he was horrible to me again and he demands I text him all the time and send photos of my son. He goes out at least 4 times a week getting drunk. He is on anti-depressants and isn't supposed to drink at all so all the alcohol messes with his head. At least twice a month I am threatened with court for not letting him see the baby, even though I have never stopped him. It's usually to get out of coming down here. He lives 120 miles away and only comes for a few hours, one day a week, my son has no idea who he is and cries whenever he sees him, and then I get the blame for comforting him as I am apparently not allowing him time with his son. I don't know what to do, the stress he puts me under is making me ill. I feel trapped, I don't want someone like this in my sons life? But he had parental rights? How can I go about stopping him seeing my son? Or having him revoked of his rights? He's telling me he's taking legal action and I don't want the stress, or the risk of my 5 month old baby being taken to a house ive never been to with a family ive never met, 120 miles away, every other weekend. I need a way out, I want the best for my little boy, he deserves so much better than this. please help!
Pleasehelp - 16-Feb-15 @ 10:59 PM
My ex partner is due out of prison in 2 weeks I am in a new relationship and my ex is threatening me because he does not want my new partner around his child I am worried he is going to try and take my child or not bring her back from days he will have her and he is on the birth certificate what are my opinion or rights
rach - 11-Feb-15 @ 2:07 PM
@andi - if you are unhappy with the service you have received you can complain via the link here. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 5-Feb-15 @ 2:35 PM
I,ve had a case with CMS since last August my x husband was due to pay weekly from sep 1 2014 into my sons bank acc,s no payments received letters to CMS to confirm this etc in mud Dec payments of £20 per week were being made into those acc,s this is no wear near what has be decided by CMS, after contacting them again I,ve now been told they are unable to get payments made into my sons acc,swhy? I do not wish the payments to be made to me due to a bitter divorce battle and constant accusations from his family is there anything I can do to get what my children deserve
andi - 4-Feb-15 @ 12:58 PM
@Mimi - sorry to hear your news, but I'm afraid we can only give advice on UK law is this is a UK-based site.
ChildSupportLaws - 3-Feb-15 @ 2:06 PM
@Help - There has only been less than a handful of people in the country who have managed to get parental responsibility revoked, so this is very unlikely to happen. If you can't locate the father for consent then you can change your child's surname under special circumstances, or through a court order. His whereabouts must be unknown and you must have taken sufficient steps to contact him before making an application for a name change. In the Deed Poll document you will need to enclose a covering letter giving details of your situation explainingyour attempts to contact the child's father, how long he has been absent for and explain how he is no longer a part of your child's life. It should also include details of lack of financial and day-to-day involvement with your child. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 3-Feb-15 @ 12:07 PM
@storm - I am very sorry to hear this, it must be very emotional for you. If the police can't bring them back because your ex has parental responsibility then you need to contact a solicitor immediately and send a registered letter to your ex-partner in which you ask him to return the children to their home and stating that if he does not do so, you’ll have to resort to legal action. Don't forget to take a copy of the letter for your records and keep your proof of sending. If this produces no action, and he won't return them you have no alternative but to go to court and ask for an Interim Contact Order. The interim contact order allows you to have contact with your children until a full court hearing resolves the matter one way or another. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 3-Feb-15 @ 10:46 AM
I just gave birth to a baby boy. His 13days today and I have not been contact with baby daddy due to me finding out about his new girlfriend so he broke up with me and cutted all kinds of communication. His based in Jhb and I'm in Cpt, I have no idea where he lives nor where he works but do know his date of birth and the number plate of his new car. Can this information help me to file for child support?? Please help
Mimi - 2-Feb-15 @ 7:45 AM
I have a 3 year old son, his father and I split up when he was around 6 months old. Since then we have never seen him, don't know where he lives anymore. I have never had any csa from him because he never paid it and now the csa can't trace where he lives, the case went to court etc but he never turned up. But he is on the birth certificate so has parental responsibility. Is there a way of getting this revoked? It really worries me that I can't change my sons surname to mine with his consent and that he had to be on school forms etc. Thanks
Help - 1-Feb-15 @ 4:10 PM
i have split with the father of my children and he has contact every weekend and has no decided to not return them. He claims he's spoken to a solicitor and they have said he has more rights than me due to me suffering from post natal depression after having my youngest child. I would appreciate any advice you can give me
storm - 31-Jan-15 @ 8:42 PM
@cat - he can request a court order if he wants to take it any further, if you can't work it out between yourselves. But as he is not on the birth certificate he would have to apply to go on the birth certificate and for parental responsibility, along with asking the courts for a more established contact routine.
Beth - 30-Jan-15 @ 11:48 AM
Hey I'm a single full time mother I have a 3 year old son I'm having problems with my ex panther for the last 4 years since I was pregnant long but cut short he is not on the birth certificate and we are not married yet I let him see my son once a week with a over night stay I have just made a change with not having night stay over but he can still see my son on Wednesday 10.30 till 8 as he is starting pre school in September so that he can get in to a sableroute. Once he starts pre school my ex will twice a week pick my son up from school he is still not happy cause he can't get his way what do I do....
cat - 28-Jan-15 @ 11:33 PM
@LK22 - yes you do have a right to make a decision. However, similarly your ex has the right to contest that decision and should he want to he can apply through the courts to have more contact. Perhaps mediation may be the way forward. If you can't make the decision between yourselves and a mediator, then it would be up to the courts to decide, should your ex wish to take it that far. I have included a link about the mediation process here. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 28-Jan-15 @ 3:10 PM
I have a 3 year old daughter and have split with her father around a year and a half ago, originally I agreed that it would be best to have her sat evening to Wednesday and the father has her from wed evening to sat.(as I don't want her to feel like I am taking her daddy time away)Yet everytime I make a decision, he over rules or disagrees, do I have any rights as a mother to make an decision without the need to consult him, I feel when my LO goes to school in September she will need a more stable routine eg, being with myself from Monday to Friday and her seeing her father every other weekend, but this is something he disagrees on. Do I have any rights to make a decision on what would be best for my daughter without a need to go to solicitors. I don't want to seem like the bad parent as I'm only trying to do what's best for her and her future.
LK22 - 27-Jan-15 @ 12:49 PM
@Am I being unfair - no you're not, you're entitled to spend quality weekend time with your daughter and your ex, if he was reasonable should understand that the access should be split fairly. Anyhow, you'll have to go through mediation first before it goes to court, so you might be able to sort it out there if you stand your ground and explain the valid reasons why you want to change the schedule.
Heather - 20-Jan-15 @ 2:27 PM
Split from daughters dad in 2012, he's had our now 5 year old every weekend, on a Friday -Sunday / Friday-sat basis ( i was at home with her during week seemed fair) with a weekend off a month I've recently started back at full time work, 4's at nursery till 4:30/5 every night. I've now asked we change the schedule to, every other weekend and Wednesday for tea in the eve as I'm not getting quality time with her, I've also allowed extra time I.e allowing him to have every Boxing Day +2 extra days ( routine my LO likes ), a week non term time, her birthday day time, unless weekday, bank holidays, and allowing the routine we have now to go back into play during 6week holidays. And Father's Day He's now trying to take Legal action to keep the Friday-sat/friday-sun thing and get more time.... I'm a full time teacher at a youth prison, I get no evening time with her, that's not doing her home work, reading, cooking tea with her. Am I being unfair ...? I think Im being fair as at the moment I don't see her nor do my family ( daughters dads sister and parents have Ava all day Wednesday while I work so they get quality 1-2-1 time with her)
Am I being unfair - 19-Jan-15 @ 5:56 PM
@Am I being unfair - it doesn't seem that you are being unfair at all. Being able to spend quality time with her was fine as you were at home all day, but because you have now taken a job then it means your time with your daughter is now restricted, so therefore your ex should accommodate the changes in your pattern so that you both have an equal share of the quality time with her. If you can't work it out between you then perhaps you should ask him to attend mediation, which you will have to do anyway, if he wishes to contest this in court. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 14-Jan-15 @ 2:30 PM
Split from daughters dad in 2012, he's had our now 5 year old every weekend, on a Friday -Sunday / Friday-sat basis ( i was at home with her during week seemed fair) with a weekend off a month I've recently started back at full time work, 4's at nursery till 4:30/5 every night. I've now asked we change the schedule to, every other weekend and Wednesday for tea in the eve as I'm not getting quality time with her, I've also allowed extra time I.e allowing him to have every Boxing Day +2 extra days ( routine my LO likes ), a week non term time, her birthday day time, unless weekday, bank holidays, and allowing the routine we have now to go back into play during 6week holidays. And Father's Day He's now trying to take Legal action to keep the Friday-sat/friday-sun thing and get more time.... I'm a full time teacher at a youth prison, I get no evening time with her, that's not doing her home work, reading, cooking tea with her. Am I being unfair ...? I think Im being fair as at the moment I don't see her nor do my family ( daughters dads sister and parents have Ava all day Wednesday while I work so they get quality 1-2-1 time with her)
Am I being unfair - 13-Jan-15 @ 10:03 PM
@KC - you have the passport, so you really hold all the cards and can say no, if you want. However, as he has PR, he can apply to the courts.
Sammy - 13-Jan-15 @ 12:03 PM
Hi, I have a son with my ex. We were together for seven years, bought a house and has a son. We split two years ago and he sees our son every other weekend fri-sun. And one night in the week over night every week. We are amicable and always resolve any issues. My sons father is on the birth certificate but we were never married. I was hoping to find out laws regarding the father taking my son abroad. I know if you were married the father doesnt require permission to take the child out of the country. With my situation.... Can he take my son if i say no? I have his birth certificate and passport but legally where do i stand as i have majority custody and day to day reaponsibility of care. Thanks in advance. KC ??
KC - 12-Jan-15 @ 7:35 PM
@mothertobe - it depends on how far he wants to take it and whether he wants to apply through the courts for parental responsibility or not. Every father or parent for that matter has a right to see their child and quite rightly so, and the courts will recognise this whether it is given through supervised access or not. If you have implied that you are going to keep your child form him, it may be why he is feeling so frustrated, especially if he can't reason with you which can drive people to act in ways they wouldn't ordinarily. Yes, you can try to keep your child away from him, but it will be his right to apply for access through the courts.
Misty - 7-Jan-15 @ 10:19 AM
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