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What Are Parents' Rights on Separation?

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 10 May 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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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Fed up- Your Question:
I am currently in a relationship with a partner of a few years. We have a 2 year old. We are currently living with parents due to financial issues. I want to leave him and move area, somewhere cheaper. I want him to have shared responsibility but it will be more difficult when we move. Can he stop me from moving ?

Our Response:
If your partner has parental responsibility then you will have to request his consent to move out of the area. If he declines, then you would have to apply through the courts and the courts will decide upon what it thinks is in the best interests of your child.
ChildSupportLaws - 11-May-17 @ 12:12 PM
I am currently in a relationship with a partner of a few years. We have a 2 year old. We are currently living with parents due to financial issues. I want to leave him and move area, somewhere cheaper. I want him to have shared responsibility but it will be more difficult when we move. Can he stop me from moving ?
Fed up - 10-May-17 @ 5:57 PM
John From London - Your Question:
Hi, my girlfriend has been living with me for 5 years but we have had doubts for some time about loving each other enough to commit. During this time she has had two miscarriages and each time we dicussed whether to keep the baby: her response was always to keep the baby if it survived; whereas my preference was termination. She is now pregnant for a third time and the issue has arisen again. She understands our different wishes regarding the baby but is still adamant she wants to keep it. She has offered to move out and never ask for assistance. She is a doctor with a good salary whereas I am self employed with an insecure and lower income but I own the house 100% to which she has contributed 0%. My question is how we execute her suggestion? Do we agree a private contract agreeing to the terms she suggests? What if we separate but later she changes her mind, for example by deciding to pursue me for a lump sum as a housing deposit? Can she enforce a change of mind despite agreeing to something else at an earlier stage? If the terms can be changed at a whim then I would rather make a go of it and raise the child together and not split up. I will very much appreciate some advice on this matter. Many thanks, John

Our Response:
Whatever you do from here on in, there is no definitive answer as it is a situation of variables and constantly changing ones at that. In the first instance, agreeing the terms via mutual agreement is the best way forward. However, whatever you agree via mediation of through a solicitor can be subject to change, if and where circumstances change. For instance, if your partner decides to 'move out and never ask for assistance', what happens if she finds parenting is limiting her earning capabilities? If you are the father of the child, you are bound by law to pay maintenance to support your child's day-to-day needs. So as idealistic as this may seem currently, if your partner becomes the primary carer, but needs to take time of work for a period, or has to pay for childcare in order to go back to work, then it is likely she will want financial help and therefore she can apply at any time via CMS. If you stay together in your home, then she will have more of a claim on your home than if she moved out. If you separated when living in your home and she did not wish to move, the courts will always decide upon what is in the child's best interests and could rule to allow your partner to live in your home until your child finishes full-time education (regardless of what your partner has previously contributed). I firmly suggest you take some independent legal advice to assess the pitfalls (if they are your concern), as there are a few. It takes two people to make a baby, contraception is available for both. If you personally do not wish to have a child, then you have been playing Russian roulette and so are partly responsible. Many decisions prior to a child being born are very much 'idealistic' however, these can soon change when practicalities hit home. There is no correct advice, the best you can hope for is that regardless of what happens in your relationship, you both stay amicable and aim to raise your child together whether living together or apart. Financially you can not aim to come out of it unscathed. It is very rare that either parent; mother or father do.
ChildSupportLaws - 4-May-17 @ 1:59 PM
Hi, my girlfriend has been living with me for 5 years but we have had doubts for some time about loving each other enough to commit.During this time she has had two miscarriages and each time we dicussed whether to keep the baby:her response was always to keep the baby if it survived; whereas my preference was termination.She is now pregnant for a third time and the issue has arisen again. She understands our different wishes regarding the baby but is still adamant she wants to keep it.She has offered to move out and never ask for assistance.She is a doctor with a good salary whereas I am self employed with an insecure and lower income but I own the house 100% to which she has contributed 0%.My question is how we execute her suggestion?Do we agree a private contract agreeing to the terms she suggests?What if we separate but later she changes her mind, for example by deciding to pursue me for a lump sum as a housing deposit?Can she enforce a change of mind despite agreeing to something else at an earlier stage?If the terms can be changed at a whim then I would rather make a go of it and raise the child together and not split up.I will very much appreciate some advice on this matter.Many thanks, John
John From London - 3-May-17 @ 7:59 PM
Jleighc - Your Question:
Me and my partner have just seperated after 6 years. We arnt married and have a mortgage aswell as a 18 month old. She has taken my keys off of me and she will only let me have my child one a week. She wont sell the house and expects me to pay the mortgage still on top of child maintanance which I agreed to pay £75 a week. It should have been such a simple seperation as things just wernt working and now she wants everything and blackmailing me to see my child. I know I will need a solicitor but just wanted some quick advice. Thank you.

Our Response:
A court would not force you to sell the house as it will always decide upon what it thinks is in the best interests of your child and that is having a permanent roof over your child's head. However, some financial and access agreement needs to be made and therefore if you can't resolve the matter between you both, mediation is the next step. You also may wish to seek some legal advice regarding this. If your ex continues to withhold access, then you may have to consider taking the matter to court. A judge will not condone holding a child to ransom with regards to financial issues.
ChildSupportLaws - 19-Apr-17 @ 2:32 PM
My husband has been out of work for the last two years. He is not actively seeking work either, just at home all day. He's been living off me for a long while(living in my flat, driving my car)and makes constant provoking/sarcasticcomments towards me and in frontour 3 year old daughter. I've had enough and several times asked him to move out of my flat, so that he has some sense responsibility, but he refuses. He says that if he does, he is taking our 3year old (picks her up) . What can I do to legally separate from this man?
Ro - 15-Apr-17 @ 9:02 PM
Me and my partner have just seperated after 6 years. We arnt married and have a mortgage aswell as a 18 month old. She has taken my keys off of me and she will only let me have my child one a week. She wont sell the house and expects me to pay the mortgage still on top of child maintanance which i agreed to pay £75 a week. It should have been such a simple seperation as things just wernt working and now she wants everything and blackmailing me to see my child. I know i will need a solicitor but just wanted some quick advice. Thank you.
Jleighc - 13-Apr-17 @ 9:39 PM
kath - Your Question:
I just wana know what is my rights as a mother. Im filipina woman who married with british national and we got married in the philippines last 2014. Now we have 15 month old daughter and Im 2 months pregnant. We are here now in uk as a tourist but my 15 month old have right of abobe here in uk because she is half british. now we are separating and my question is where my child have to live? with me or with the father?

Our Response:
Your children will have rights to live in the UK. If the father is a British national then your children can be registered as British citizens . If you wish to move back to your home country from the UK, then you would have to request written consent from your ex to leave the country with your children. You can see more via the link here.
ChildSupportLaws - 4-Apr-17 @ 12:20 PM
I just wana know what is my rights as a mother. Im filipina woman who married with british national and we got married in the philippines last 2014. Now we have 15 month old daughter and Im 2 months pregnant. We are here now in uk as a tourist but my 15 month old have right of abobe here in uk because she is half british.. now we are separating and my question is where my child have to live? with me or with the father?
kath - 3-Apr-17 @ 10:05 PM
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
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