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The Rights of Fathers in relation to unborn children

View profile for Kennedy Langley
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Parental Responsibility and Unborn Children

In the UK, an unborn foetus does not have any rights and an unborn baby is not recognised as a ‘legal person’ until birth. This makes attaching parental rights to unborn children difficult.

Due to the fact that an unborn baby is not recognised as legal person until birth, before birth no one can have Parental Responsibility (“PR”) for it.

Parental Responsibility is the legal term for all of the legal rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority a parent has for a child and the child’s property. A person who has PR for a child has the right to make decisions about their care and upbringing and important decisions in the child’s life must be agreed with each person who has PR.

When a child is born, the Mother will automatically acquire PR on birth. Similarly, a Father cannot have PR for the child until after it has been born, but PR will only be automatically acquired on birth if the Father is married to the Mother at the time of the birth.

Fathers who are not married to the Mother at the time of the birth will not automatically acquire PR. However, PR for unmarried fathers can be obtained through one of the following means:

  1. having his name registered on the birth certificate;
  2. entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the Mother;
  3. obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order from the court;
  4. being named as the resident parent under a Child Arrangements Order.

The rights of Fathers before birth

Where a Mother is pregnant, the Father does not have any rights to contact or to make decisions in relation to the pregnancy.

This means that the Father would need the Mother’s consent to:

  1. be present at the birth or even notified of the birth;
  2. visit the Mother and baby in hospital after the birth;
  3. attend medical appointments, e.g scans; and
  4. access medical records relating to the pregnancy.

Once the child has been born, it is for the Mother to decide whether she will allow the Father to accompany her to register the birth and be named on the child’s birth certificate. There is no legal requirement that the Father’s details are included on the birth certificate or for the child to be given Father’s surname.

Therefore, where the parties not married and a Father is not sure he whether he will be named on the child’s birth certificate, he would need to wait until baby was born to either:

  1. enter into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the Mother if she consents to him having PR. (This can be completed on standard form C(PRA1) from the website and sent to the court); or
  1. if the Mother does not consent to the Father having PR, make an application for a Parental Responsibility Order, the current fee for which is £232.

It is important to remember that, even if a Father does not have PR for the child, he will still have certain legal duties towards the child - for example, paying child maintenance.

If you are attempting to secure parental rights for your child or require further assistance relating to any aspect of private family law, please contact a member of our Family team on 01562 820181 or email Kennedy Langley on