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This Sunday 21st June is Father’s Day. For some dads it will be a joyous occasion: bacon butty in the morning, pub grub in the afternoon, a new pair of socks perhaps. For other newly separated dads it will be a bittersweet occasion filled with frustration and upset.

Figures show that one million men don’t live with their children anymore. After years of being around their offspring in the family home, a new single life can be harsh and lonely. These feelings are brought to the forefront and amplified when faced with the bombardment of Father’s Day advertisements in the media and on the high street, combined with the thought on the day as families gather together to open gifts and cards.

The good news is that almost 90% of separated dads still have contact with their children, albeit at a much reduced frequency. This is perhaps one day at the weekend, a few evenings a week or even every other weekend. Nevertheless this is completely different from the role of a full time dad.

Striking a balance when it comes to part-time parenting is often difficult to achieve. It requires planning, understanding and patience. It is ultimately the interest of the child or children that need to be primarily considered.

Changes in the Law

In the news these last two weeks is the melancholic case of Ethan Minnock, the young three-year-old who was taken into hiding with his mother after the courts declared that he should live with his father after the mother made false accusations and obstructed contact between the child and father. The judge ruled that she had breached court orders, showing that family courts are taking a tougher stance on those who try to restrict access to a separated parent. Rebecca Minnock, the mother, handed herself in and still hopes to gain custody.  A number of other people involved have been jailed for contempt of court. The case just highlights the complex and emotional turmoil involved during a separation and custody battle.

Laws have changed in recent times too and Child Arrangement Orders have been put in place. They are designed to promote joint parental responsibility about where children will live and how often they see each parent. The hope is that it encouraged divorcing couples to limit confrontation and avoid the courts were possible with the aim of putting the children’s best interest first.

There is plenty of research available to show that children benefit from having a relationship with both parents however often in a relationship breakdown where emotions play a big role; it is not always easy to agree the arrangements for the children in an amicable manner.

Parental Responsibility

For fathers it is vitally important to understand their legal position and what entitlements and responsibilities they have when it comes to their children, something which is not always straightforward. Parental Responsibility refers to the legal rights and duties that a parent has for a child. A women automatically acquires parental responsibility when she gives birth and a father automatically gains parental responsibility if he is married to the mother when the child was born or if he is named on the birth certificate if the child was born after 1st December 2003. If this isn’t the case biological fathers can still apply for parental responsibility.

Conversely, fathers who have a child born after 1st December 2003, are not married and not registered on the birth certificate would not have parental responsibility by law. Parental responsibility gives you the right to be involved in all the big decision in your child’s life, such as going abroad, medical treatment and what school they go to. Therefore, in this situation the father would not have the same legal rights as the mother to make decisions on the child’s upbringing.

Although it is still possible for fathers in this position to acquire parental responsibility it is a complex situation, therefore it is important to seek expert advice at the earliest possible opportunity to clarify their legal position.

The Help Available

For the one million men no longer living with your children: you’re not alone and there is plenty of help for you out there.

In advance of this year’s Father’s Day, the charity ‘Families need fathers’ has updated its charter to remind professionals involved in Family law issues of the need to promote shared parenting wherever appropriate.  The charity offers information and support to parents with the aim to maintain a child’s relationship with both parents. Their charter covers five key principles, the first of which being that:

“No child should be denied a full and loving relationship with both their parents unless it has been proven that such a relationship presents a risk to the child…”

Other help available:

  • OnlyDads.org is a site that offers advice and support specifically for fathers who are going through a divorce or separation. There is also a partner site called Only Mums.
  • Separateddads.co.uk offers help with all aspects from emotional to financial to legal.
  • Relate.org and thecoupleconnection.net are two websites which offer relationship support. Both sites promote amicable separations, if that’s what it comes to, and highlight the challenges that separation involves.

At Gorvins our personal, sensitive and collaborative approach gives us the edge when dealing such sensitive cases. If you have any questions or queries regarding separation, divorce or contact with your children, get in touch with our specialist family team on 0343 507 5151 (charged at a normal landline rate and included in mobile minutes). You can also email us on enquiries@gorvins.com and follow us on Twitter @Gorvins.