unmarried father

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A father of a child who is not married to the mother of his child. In law, there is no automatic presumption of paternity in respect of the unmarried father; however, the effect of registration of the name of a man as the father of a child creates a rebuttable presumption of paternity. In other cases a declaration of parentage may be sought. A father who is registered as such will automatically have parental responsibility for any child born after 2003. In all other cases, the father can only acquire parental responsibility by entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother or by obtaining a parental responsibility order from the courts. Such orders are readily granted where the father establishes a positive attachment and commitment to a child Re H (Minors) (Local Authority: Parental Rights) (no 3 [1991] Fam 151 (CA); Re C & V (Contact and Parental Responsibility) [1998] 1 FLR 392 (CA); (Re S (Parental Responsibility) [1994] 2 FLR 68). Examples of circumstances in which parental responsibility orders have been refused include where the father was serving a long-term prison sentence and where a father displayed sadistic behaviour in relation to the child (Re H (Parental Responsibility) [1998] 1 FLR 855 (CA). On the whole, the legal status of an unmarried father without parental responsibility is limited; he has no right to look after the child physically, no right to participate in decisions regarding his upbringing, and no right to veto adoption proceedings. It is to be noted that all these limitations will be overcome by obtaining parental responsibility. An unmarried father without parental responsibility does, however, have an obligation to maintain his child financially (see child support maintenance); is in the same position as all other parents for the purposes of succession; has a right to reasonable contact if his child is in care; and has a right to be consulted by a local authority about decisions taken in relation to the child. See also registration of birth.

Subjects: Law.

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