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What Are Parents' Rights on Separation?

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 15 Mar 2017 |
 
Separation Parent Rights Child

The break up of a relationship is always stressful and can leave one or both parents feeling lost, hurt and bewildered. When you separate from the other parent of your child or children, there are certain rights and responsibilities that you need to understand which will help you to make better decisions for yourself and your child.

Parental Responsibility

Mothers automatically have parental responsibility for their children. Fathers also have this right if they were married to the mother when the child was born. If you are an unmarried father, you will have parental responsibility if your name is registered on the child’s birth certificate. You can also get a court order to get parental responsibility of the child, which does not in principle require the consent of the mother. If you separate from your partner and child, you do not lose parental responsibility.

Financial Arrangements For Your Child

When you separate, you will both need to make decisions about the welfare and upbringing of your child. This includes where the child lives and with whom, how the parent who is not living with the child will have contact with the child, and how the child will be supported financially. If you cannot agree this amicably, you will probably need to go to court to have arrangements enforced. Other issues that separating parents should discuss are holidays, education, who has responsibility for taking a child to a doctor, and what would happen if one of you became too ill to care for the child.

It invariably costs more for parents to live apart than together and if financial arrangements are not made this can cause hardship for the child. No matter how angry you feel about what has happened in the break up of your relationship, you should always remember that your child’s needs must come first. If you are able to come to a financial arrangement between yourselves about your child (known as a ‘private agreement’) then that is often best, but it does mean that your arrangement is not legally binding. If payments are not made under a private agreement, the Child Support Agency cannot get involved and help you recover this money.

What If We Can’t Agree?

If you cannot agree payment arrangements amicably, you may decide to use the CSA or get the court to decide. Using the court is likely to cost money, because you will have to pay court fees and will probably need a solicitor. Going to court over child support payments is not covered by legal aid, but if you are already going to court to determine other issues you can decide child support matters at the same time.

You should also look at changing your will after separation, or if you don’t have one, you should definitely make one! If you don’t have a will, your assets will be dealt with under the laws of intestacy. If you do have a will that is out of date, and your ex partner was the main beneficiary, your assets will go to your ex partner on your death.

What About Our Home?

In terms of property, one partner may decide to leave the family home. This can be problematic if the parents aren’t married, especially if a new partner moves in with your ex before arrangements can be finalised. In these situations, it is very important that you speak to a solicitor without delay. If you and your ex partner are married, one person automatically receives the other’s estate on death – which you will want to avoid if you have separated.

You don’t always have to sell your home on separation. You may be able to agree who pays the mortgage, or get a court order as to that effect. One partner may be able to buy the other partner out of the property, or you could decide to sell it at some point in the future.

Do I Have To Go To Court?

Not all separations and divorces end up in court. Some people are content to use a separation agreement, or to enter mediation in order to come to an agreement about issues between you, your partner and your child. Mediation is often much less stressful than having to resort to court action, and can also be cheaper than litigation. That said, you will have to use the court if you decide you are going to divorce. There is no way around this.

Speak To A Solicitor

In short, if you can possibly keep negotiations amicable then this is best. Things do however have a tendency to deteriorate and you can find yourself very short of money, or without a home, or both, if you decide to leave. In these circumstances, you should always contact a solicitor.

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[Add a Comment]
Anonymous64269 - Your Question:
My partner has decided after 3.5 years that she no longer loves me and has decided to leave.We have an 18 month old and a 30 month old. I bought our family home approximately 2 years ago and is in my name. She is moving in with her mother tomorrow and leaving the children with me as we don't want to upset their routine. I am completely broken and love her dearly and I just don't know what to do and where I stand. Can some please help me understand where I stand?Thanks

Our Response:
If your ex leaves the children with you, then in effect you will become the primary carer of your children which means in financial terms you can claim child benefit and child tax credits where applicable and if your ex earns an income, you will be able to claim child maintenance (if you wish). Alternatively, you can choose to come to a family-based child maintenance agreement. You can see what the legal/financial differences are between co-habiting and marriage via the CAB link here. If you need support on an emotional level our Separated Dads sites may help you further, please see link here. However, these are more applicable for fathers who are classed as non-resident parents i.e being separated from their children - but hopefully it may give you some personal understanding post-separation. Mediation is also an option if you wish to make arrangements with your ex regarding contact/access arrangements regarding your kids. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 13-Mar-17 @ 10:09 AM
My partner has decided after 3.5 years that she no longer loves me and has decided to leave. We have an 18 month old and a 30 month old. I bought our family home approximately 2 years ago and is in my name. She is moving in with her mother tomorrow and leaving the children with me as we don't want to upset their routine. I am completely broken and love her dearly and I just don't know what to do and where I stand. Can some please help me understand where I stand? Thanks
Anonymous64269 - 12-Mar-17 @ 2:31 AM
My husband and I have been separated for over 2yrs now. He is American and had a visa but chose to go back to America. We have a son together who stayed with me. He is now inquiring about how to come back to the UK. Do you know if this is possible as we both have no interest in reconciling but I have no objection to him being in the UK to have a relationship with his son. We have both since moved on in relationships. I now I have partner of almost 2yrs and a child with him and I believe my husband is in a relationship.
Carly - 8-Mar-17 @ 7:45 PM
Hi I have recently chosen to leave my partner and our 10 week old baby (personal reasons that I do not want to go into on here). I do want to be a mother to my child but I am unable to be right now. What rights can I and my partner have in relation to our son that would not mean that we have to go through courts. I don't want to completel sign over my rights to the father as I do want to be his mum. What options are available for us?
Tip - 8-Mar-17 @ 5:02 PM
Dog - Your Question:
I would like to know my rights on seeing my baby after at court he judge said he can live with his dad but the judge also said we have to arrange contact between us, I'm his mum and his dad is very controlling he won't let me see my baby now for nearly weeks , what can I do

Our Response:
If the court has awarded a contact order that says you can see your child, then in the first instance I would ask your solicitor to write a letter to your ex reminding him of the terms of the order and the repercussions he faces if he does not adhere to it. Any contact orders made after 2008 should include a standard warning notice at the bottom of the order. This notice warns the parties of the consequences of failing to comply with the order. If your ex ignores this, your only option is to apply back to court to have the order enforced. In order to apply to the court for enforcement of a child arrangement order (or contact order / residence order), you will need to fill in, issue and serve form C79 (which can be found on the HMRC website). There are a number of options open to the court in order to punish the offending parent and try to ensure that the breach does not occur. Which route the court takes, will depend upon the circumstances including the severity and frequency of the breach, and where the child resides. I hope this helps.
ChildSupportLaws - 6-Mar-17 @ 3:01 PM
I would like to know my rights on seeing my baby after at court he judge said he can live with his dadbut the judge also said we have to arrange contact between us,I'm his mum and his dad is very controlling he won't let me see my baby now for nearlyweeks , what can I do
Dog - 6-Mar-17 @ 7:57 AM
Alan - Your Question:
I work for an airline and got home from a 6 day trip to find my rental home empty. My wife had left with our daughter without my knowledge. I had been having discipline issues with my 14 yr old stepdaughter for years. Now my wife who moved into a new flat without telling me where she was, is demanding money for our 4yr old daughter. I would sell my soul for my daughter and have paid nearly £400 this month alone in food and clothing as well as paying my wife's mortgage as well as other bills for my stepdaughter. I went without food for two days last month. Now I'm being told by my wife that she doesn't want me to see my daughter because I'm unstable due to my anger and verbal rebuke towards her. I have also given my wife £95 this month for our daughter. I am guilty of saying nasty things through drink and anger but my child is never at risk from either. My world has been turned upside down over the last six months. My daughter is with me now until I go away on Saturday , I have her for half the month when possible. What are my rights as a father!!!!!!!

Our Response:
You have no particular rights with regards to guaranteed access arrangments etc. If you are dissatisfied with the current arrangement, you can suggest your ex attends mediation in order to try to resolve your issues. Child maintenance and child access are also not dependent upon each other i.e you you are legally obliged to pay towards the day-to-day upkeep of your daughter, but access is not dependent upon the money you pay. Our Separated Dads site may help answer your questions, please see link here.
ChildSupportLaws - 21-Feb-17 @ 12:48 PM
I work for an airline and got home from a 6 day trip to find my rental home empty. My wife had left with our daughter without my knowledge . I had been having discipline issues with my 14 yr old stepdaughter for years. Now my wife who moved into a new flat without telling me where she was, is demanding money for our 4yr old daughter . I would sell my soul for my daughter and have paid nearly £400 this month alone in food and clothing as well as paying my wife's mortgage as well as other bills for my stepdaughter . I went without food for two days last month. Now I'm being told by my wife that she doesn't want me to see my daughter because I'm unstable due to my anger and verbal rebuke towards her. I have also given my wife £95 this month for our daughter . I am guilty of saying nasty things through drink and anger but my child is never at risk from either. My world has been turned upside down over the last six months. My daughter is with me now until I go away on Saturday , I have her for half the month when possible. What are my rights as a father!!!!!!!
Alan - 20-Feb-17 @ 9:29 PM
I work for an airline and got home from a 6 day trip to find my rental home empty. My wife had left with our daughter without my knowledge . I had been having discipline issues with my 14 yr old stepdaughter for years. Now my wife who moved into a new flat without telling me where she was, is demanding money for our 4yr old daughter . I would sell my soul for my daughter and have paid nearly £400 this month alone in food and clothing as well as paying my wife's mortgage as well as other bills for my stepdaughter . I went without food for two days last month. Now I'm being told by my wife that she doesn't want me to see my daughter because I'm unstable due to my anger and verbal rebuke towards her. I have also given my wife £95 this month for our daughter . I am guilty of saying nasty things through drink and anger but my child is never at risk from either. My world has been turned upside down over the last six months. My daughter is with me now until I go away on Saturday , I have her for half the month when possible. What are my rights as a father!!!!!!!
Alan - 20-Feb-17 @ 9:15 PM
I have a friend who had a one night stand with his ex and now she is pregnant. She is refusing to allow him to see the child or attend anything unless he splits from his new partner. What rights does he have?
Aimee - 10-Feb-17 @ 8:22 PM
AJ - Your Question:
My husband and I have been separated for over a year now and he has been with his new partner for about that time also. We both came to an agreement for him to have our youngest son live with him as my eldest who is only 7 is violent to our 6 year old as he has autism and struggles with social interaction. We still have shared custody as my youngest stays every day after school for 3 hours and stays over night every other weekend. My ex works but can he stop me looking after my youngest during the holidays and have his girlfriend look after him instead?

Our Response:
You would really have to negotiate this between you and your ex and if you cannot agree, suggest mediation. 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 helping 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. Also, mediation is confidential and there is nothing to lose and, potentially, a lot to gain. Best of all is an agreement that you and your ex partner can work with to make sure it is resolved in the best interests of your children.
ChildSupportLaws - 7-Feb-17 @ 12:11 PM
My husband and I have been separated for over a year now and he has been with his new partner for about that time also. We both came to an agreement for him to have our youngest son live with him as my eldest who is only 7 is violent to our 6 year old as he has autism and struggles with social interaction. We still have shared custody as my youngest stays every day after school for 3 hours and stays over night every other weekend. My ex works but can he stop me looking after my youngest during the holidays and have his girlfriend look after him instead?
AJ - 6-Feb-17 @ 5:53 PM
Gem - Your Question:
Hi I had a baby a week before moving in to a house with my partner. He is now mentally getting on at me and I've left. He is now saying our 16 week old baby has to stop with him every Friday, Saturday and come home Sunday. I'm not ready for him to stop over night but mind him having him in the day. He's on the birth certificate

Our Response:
There are no set rules to say when your ex should and should not have your child, which means it is negotiable between you both. If you cannot agree, you should either consider mediation or your ex will have the opportunity to take the matter to court and let the court decide what level of access is deemed to be in the best interests of your child. Once a court order is awarded both parents have to stick rigidly to it. Therefore, if you can, you should try to negotiate outside court.
ChildSupportLaws - 2-Feb-17 @ 1:53 PM
Hi I had a baby a week before moving in to a house with my partner. He is now mentally getting on at me and I've left. He is now saying our 16 week old baby has to stop with him every Friday, Saturday and come home Sunday. I'm not ready for him to stop over night but mind him having him in the day. He's on the birth certificate
Gem - 1-Feb-17 @ 1:45 PM
Jane - Your Question:
Hi. I've split from my boyfriend after living with him for 5 years in the house that he jointly owns with his Dad. We have 2 children together aged 3 and 4. However because of our differences he's asked me to leave with my children, so I'm staying with family. I've never contributed to the property, in the way of mortgage or utility bills etc. Do I have a right to stay in the house, at least for my children's sake? Or can I force him to sell the house and get some money to start a new life. Thanks

Our Response:
Yes, you should certainly look into the matter further and seek legal advice. A court will always put the welfare of the children first when considering any asset split of this nature, or who should be allowed to live in the house.
ChildSupportLaws - 27-Jan-17 @ 12:27 PM
Hi. I've split from my boyfriend after living with him for 5 years in the house that he jointly owns with his Dad. We have 2 children together aged 3 and 4. However because of our differences he's asked me to leave with my children, so I'm staying with family. I've never contributed to the property, in the way of mortgage or utility bills etc. Do I have a right to stay in the house, at least for my children's sake? Or can I force him to sell the house and get some money to start a new life. Thanks
Jane - 26-Jan-17 @ 7:18 PM
I divorced my wife several years ago and have court appointed parental custody of our child. My ex always bad mouths me to our child to the point I would call it mental abuse.As a result our child is becoming more aggressive,not doing well at school and is generally very unhappy. Is there any way I can stop my ex from contacting our child?
Piperson - 23-Jan-17 @ 9:36 PM
Shaney - Your Question:
Me and my husband been together for 7 years. Our child born on October 2009. We got married January 2010. I am an Asian and currently live in the Philippines. My husband just see us every 3 months since he's working in UK. Now that we are separated since he got another girl I'm worried about our child's welfare. I only do part time job,what can I do about financial support from my husband. Hope to hear from you ASAP,thank you very much

Our Response:
You would have to approach the REMO unit via the link here and check whether your country is a member country.
ChildSupportLaws - 20-Jan-17 @ 2:18 PM
Me and my husband been together for 7 years. Our child born on October 2009. We got married January 2010. I am an Asian and currently live in the Philippines. My husband just see us every 3 months since he's working in UK. Now that we are separated since he got another girl I'm worried about our child's welfare. I only do part time job,what can I do about financial support from my husband. Hope to hear from you ASAP,thank you very much
Shaney - 19-Jan-17 @ 11:21 PM
Foxy - Your Question:
Please can you give me some advice my husband and I seperated he met someone else once we split he had only known her for a weekend & moved in with her & her kids I do not want my children staying or going to this women's house until they have been together at least 6 months & I know it is serious between the two them. I don't think this is unreasonable we both agreed that when we met new partners the children would not meet Them for at least 6 months & even then only if it was a serious relationship & we had met the new partner first! However he has now changed his mind & wants my kids to be staying there with her & her two children for weekends they have only been together just over a month! What are my rights please??

Our Response:
There are no specific rights either parent has that says it is right or wrong for your children to meet your ex's new partner etc. As both of you have parental responsibility it is up to you to negotiate between yourselves, if you cannot come to mutual agreement, then you may wish to consider mediation. Mediation is when two or more parties meet to resolve problems before the matter reaches court. It is most often used in family proceedings and is a formal negotiation. The 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 helping 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. If your ex refuses mediation and you still refuse to stop access for instance, then he would have to take the matter to court for the court to decide.
ChildSupportLaws - 9-Jan-17 @ 1:00 PM
Please can you give me some advice my husband and I seperated he met someone else once we split he had only known her for a weekend & moved in with her & her kids I do not want my children staying or going to this women's house until they have been together at least 6 months & I know it is serious between the two them. I don't think this is unreasonable we both agreed that when we met new partners the children would not meet Them for at least 6 months & even then only if it was a serious relationship & we had met the new partner first! However he has now changed his mind & wants my kids to be staying there with her & her two children for weekends they have only been together just over a month! What are my rights please??
Foxy - 8-Jan-17 @ 10:18 PM
Hilda - Your Question:
I've been together with father of my kids for 21 years.Unfortunately we both are not on the same page and I belive is best for the both of us to separate. Our kids ages are 20,14,12,7, so my question is what rights do I have to stay in the home. The house is only under his name.

Our Response:
If you are not married, then it depends on several factors such as how long you have been together, who will be the primary carer of your children, please see CAB link here which wil explain more. If you have lived in the property with the father of your children for a considerable amount of time and have contributed to the upkeep etc, you may be able to register an interest which may give you some financial rights. If you are the primary carer of your children, then a court may allow you to stay in the home until your youngest child finishes full-time education. However, you would need to seek legal advice in order to explore your options.
ChildSupportLaws - 5-Jan-17 @ 2:46 PM
I've been together with father of my kids for 21 years.Unfortunately we both are not on the same page and I belive is best for the both of us to separate. Our kids ages are 20,14,12,7, so my question is what rights do I have to stay in the home . The house is only under his name .
Hilda - 5-Jan-17 @ 12:30 AM
Hello, me and my partner have separated and he taken our 2yr old son and won't bring him back and now he is trying to take our 6 months old daughter away! He is telling me I am not a fit mother when I clearly am I have a stable home for my children and my partner has no home or income what shall I do?
Carla - 1-Jan-17 @ 4:10 PM
Jord - Your Question:
Hi me and my partner are still together, things are bad atm because she won't let me take my son to my parents house to see them which hurts me a lot, do I have any rights that would allow me to do so without her permission. My parents haven't done anything wrong all they want is the best for me and my little family and want to help us in anyway shape or form. My mum especially is madly in love with my son (15 weeks old) and adores him but my fiancé has stopped them both from seeing him for a month exactly now, please help

Our Response:
It is still very early days and your child is still very young, and it sounds as though your partner is being over-protective, which can happen in the first few months. If you have parental responsibility, then you have as much right as your partner to take your child to see your parents and/or make decisions regarding your child. However, much depends on whether this could make your current situation worse. You don't give the reasons why your partner is refusing to let your parents see your child, but if you can sit down and talk to her about the matter rationally, then this may help. Hopefully, it will blow over in time, as it really is something you would have to try and negotiate between yourselves.
ChildSupportLaws - 2-Dec-16 @ 2:24 PM
Hi me and my partner are still together, things are bad atm because she won't let me take my son to my parents house to see them which hurts me a lot, do I have any rights that would allow me to do so without her permission. My parents haven't done anything wrong all they want is the best for me and my little family and want to help us in anyway shape or form. My mum especially is madly in love with my son (15 weeks old) and adores him but my fiancé has stopped them both from seeing him for a month exactly now, please help
Jord - 2-Dec-16 @ 8:57 AM
Tommy - Your Question:
Hi me and my partner (not married) split 12 weeks after the birth of our daughter (her second child) she is saying I can only see her twice through the week to hers for a couple of hours and I can only take her to my house once a week for a few hours but I can't take her anywhere she is also saying she won't ever spend a Christmas with me it will always be with her and her son she keeps moving the goal post as at first she said I can see her everyday which I want to I will pay what ever I need to towards he but I feel she needs to spend as much time with her dad as she does her mum if I went to court would I get minimum 3 days a week with my daughter also would I get to alternate having her at Christmas

Our Response:
We cannot predict what a court may decide, I can only suggest you take some legal advice in order to explore your options. Much always depends upon how hard your ex is willing to fight in order to prevent you having access. However, the courts are also aware that many resident-parents have no grounds to prevent access and will do its best to ensure you as the father has a fair amount of access to your child.
ChildSupportLaws - 1-Dec-16 @ 12:31 PM
Hi me and my partner(not married) split 12 weeks after the birth of our daughter (her second child) she is saying I can only see her twice through the week to hers for a couple of hours and I can only take her to my house once a week for a few hours but I can't take her anywhere she is also saying she won't ever spend a Christmas with me it will always be with her and her son she keeps moving the goal post as at first she said I can see her everyday which I want to i will pay what ever I need to towards he but I feel she needs to spend as much time with her dad as she does her mum if I went to court would I get minimum 3 days a week with my daughter also would I get to alternate having her at Christmas
Tommy - 1-Dec-16 @ 11:26 AM
My partner and I separated 4 years ago we have daughter who is six. She has been going to his every other weekend until three weeks ago when my shift pattern was becoming impossible and I asked if she could go to his every weekend. Essentially I organise care for 5 days and he 2. He is telling me he is not happy with this....but me and my daughter are both much less stressed, so I am unhappy at the thought changing back . Is there anything I can do to make him share the care of our daughter in this 2 to 5 split so me and her have a better balance. He is named on her birth certificate. Thankyou.
Flainey - 18-Nov-16 @ 6:43 PM
Sue - Your Question:
My partners daughter stays at his mother's house over night. 3-4 times a week as the childs mother works nights. Would this affect my partner on how much he has to pay child maintenance as we think £300 is alot to pay as it is shared care. We have explained this situation over the phone and haven't got anywhere.

Our Response:
I can only direct you to the child maintenance calculator so your partner can assess how much he should be paying, based upon the number of nights he has the children overnight, please see link here. Much also depends upon the amount of nights your partner's ex states he has the children overnight. However, if your partner can prove he has the children to the frequency he does (and his ex is denying this) then the CMS have to take this into consideration.
ChildSupportLaws - 10-Nov-16 @ 12:12 PM
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