You can apply for one or more orders at the same time.
1. Parental Responsibility Order
Under UK law Mother’s will have parental responsibility automatically however if you are an Unmarried father or your name is not upon the child’s birth certificate you can acquire parental responsibility for your children in several different ways, depending on when their children were born.
For children born before 1 December 2003
Unmarried fathers not listed on their child's birth certificate can get parental responsibility by:
- Marrying the mother of their child
- Obtaining a parental responsibility order from the court
- Entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother in the prescribed form and having it recorded at court
- Being appointed guardian upon the death of the mother
- Obtaining a Child Arrangements Order residence order from the court
For children born after 1 December 2003
Unmarried fathers can get parental responsibility by:
- Any of the above
- Registering the child's birth jointly with the mother at the time of birth
- Re-registering the birth if you are the natural father
Applying to the courts for an order for parental responsibility
If you are unable to reach an agreement with the Mother about sharing Parental Responsibility then you may feel like you have no alternative but to apply to the Court.
The court will decide to accept or reject the application based on what it believes is in the child's best interest. If Parental Responsibility is ordered you may want to also consider making a Child Arrangement Order for contact also as you may find that the Mother is placing restrictions on this also.
2. Child Arrangement Orders — Contact
If you are having disputes with the primary carer of your child about how much contact they are allowing you to have with your child and when, then you may wish to consider applying for a Child Arrangements Order to set up a regulated contact schedule.
If you are a Grandparent or Aunt/Uncle seeking contact with a child within the family, you too can apply for contact although you will need to also apply for leave to do so first [this is all within the same application form].
3. Child Arrangements Orders — Residence Order
You may or may not be having regular contact with your children, or you may have recently separated from your other half with whom you used to reside with and share care of your children with. If you are the parent who has had to move out of the family home or give up primary care of the children and you want a more shared arrangement that the other parent is not agreeing to then you may want to consider obtaining a Child Arrangements Order for Residence.
The Court will consider what is in the best interests of the children, how involved you have been in the past and your relationship with them. For example if the child is of school age and you live 2 hours from their school then the Court may consider that it would be too difficult for the child to have a shared arrangement and a contact order for weekends would be more appropriate. You will need to carefully consider what you think is in your children’s best interest.
You may also want to seek a Residence Order if there is no one present who has Parental Responsibility for the child and someone needs to take this on. A Residence Order would allow the holder of the order to share Parental Responsibility until that residence comes to an end.
4. Specific Issue Order [otherwise known as a Section 8 Order]
A Specific Issue Order does exactly what it says on the tin and is where the Court will make an order upon a specific issue that the parents cannot seem to agree on. This could be anything from a Father wanting to take his children to a family party that the Mother is not allowing him too or the Mother wanting to take the children on a holiday, other examples include but are not limited to;
- Whether your children should change their last name
- Whether they should have a particular medical treatment or operation
- Decisions relating to their education
- Preventing other people from having contact with your child
- Whether they should or should not practice a religion
- Taking the child to live abroad on a permanent basis
As in all cases, the court’s main concern is the welfare of the child in question. The court will always put the child’s best interests first and this main issue will determine the outcome of any application for an order.
5. Prohibited Steps Order
This is where either parent can make an application to the court to prevent the other parent taking action over something. A prohibited steps order may be made against anyone, regardless of whether they have parental responsibility therefore an order may be made against a person who is not a party to the proceedings.
This can include preventing the children having contact with someone you find to be wholly unsuitable, preventing medical treatment or most commonly what a Prohibited Steps Order is used for, preventing a child from being permanently removed from the country.
If your partner has taken the children out of the country then you may be able to get the children back with the help of the court, but this depends on which country the children have been taken to.
Below is a list of countries with whom the UK has an agreement with so that if children are taken to these countries unlawfully the authorities in that country can help to bring the children back.
Or, if you have a Residence Order and the children are taken to one of these countries, the authorities in that country should help to make sure the children are returned to you.
- Bosnia & Herzegovina
- Burkina Faso
- Canada (most states)
- Cyprus (Southern)
- New Zealand
- St.Kitts & Nevis
- United States