LEGAL EAGLE: Worried I won’t have a say in what happens to my son
I have recently split up with my partner, who is five months pregnant with my son. We are not in a good place and every conversation I have with her ends up in an argument.
I am worried that she is so angry with me that she will not let me see the baby once he is born. I am also worried that she won’t let me be involved in any important decisions about his care. What rights do I have?
In terms of spending time with your child, the starting point should always be negotiation and therefore it is always preferable to try and make arrangements between yourselves before considering any court action. You have however indicated that previous conversations with your ex-partner have not ended cordially and therefore any constructive conversations may be unsuccessful. You may therefore wish to instruct a solicitor to attempt to negotiate on your behalf.
If however this is unsuccessful, you may be able to apply to the court for a Child Arrangements Order (CAO). Mediation should usually be attempted first unless the parties are exempt from attending – your solicitor will discuss this with you in more detail. CAO’s regulate who a child is to live with and with whom they are to spend time with. The judge will consider all the issues in the case and then make a decision about contact which is in the best interests of your son.
In respect of making decisions about your son’s care, this will depend upon whether or not you obtain Parental Responsibility (PR) for him. PR is the term used to refer to the rights and responsibilities that a parent has for a child – for example, the right to be consulted about any medical treatment which your son might receive.
Mothers automatically obtain PR for a child they have given birth to. The situation is different for fathers. You have not clarified whether or not you are married to your ex-partner. This is a very important distinction, as married fathers automatically obtain PR as there is a presumption that the baby is theirs.
If however you are not married, there is no such presumption. In these circumstances, you can obtain PR by having your name placed on your son’s birth certificate. If your ex-partner refuses to agree to this and you do not obtain PR, your solicitor can negotiate and draft a Parental Responsibility Agreement for you both to sign. If no agreement is reached, the Court can be asked to grant a Parental Responsibility Order during the CAO proceedings.