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Unmarried Father's Legal Rights

Author : Debra-Stevens

It's recently been reported in the press that Hugh Grant has become a father again for the third time. As an unmarried father he may be surprised to learn of his legal position. As the number of couples cohabiting and having children increases, it's important to examine the legal position of the unmarried father.

Firstly, unmarried fathers aren't able to register a baby's birth unless the mother is present. By contrast a married father can attend a baby's birth registration without the mother being present.

But why is it important to be named on the birth certificate? Its all about parental responsibility i.e. legal status and having rights and responsibilities in relation to the child. Mothers automatically have parental responsibility as do married fathers.

Without parental responsibility, an unmarried father is limited in what information they are entitled or what they can do e.g. they can't get information from a child's doctor or school, consent to any medical treatment, obtain a child's passport. For many unmarried fathers they aren't aware of the difference in their legal position until their relationship with the mother has broken down.

For a married father, it isn't such an issue as he will automatically acquire parental responsibility along with the mother. The unmarried father will gain parental responsibility if he is present at the registration and is named on the birth certificate. If the mother doesn't agree to the unmarried father being named on the birth certificate there are other methods of acquiring the parental responsibility.

It is important to note that as an unmarried father you are able to make an application to the court if you are unable to resolve matters with the mother.

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