Fathers urged to not give up on seeking increased time with their children

16 June 2023

Fathers across the UK are growing increasingly confident in seeking the right to see their children more regularly, according to a family law expert.

As the country prepares to celebrate Father’s Day, recent Government figures revealed just 16% of the 2.9 million lone-parent families in 2022 were headed by a father.

But Sioned Fitt, Senior Associate and expert in child custody and arrangements at award-winning law firm Higgs LLP, said though it is still very much the norm for children to live with their mother, the situation is evolving and fathers are being afforded more time with their offspring.

Sioned said: “The overwhelming majority of children in lone-parent families are still living with their mothers.

“However, I am encouraged that the traditional view that children spend short periods of time with their father is dying out.

“Courts are increasingly recognising that children need their fathers just as much as their mothers. We have had a huge amount of success in pursuing a more even arrangement for children to spend time between their parents.

“We are committed to promoting father’s rights and recognise the negative impact on children of not having close and meaningful relationships with both their parents.”

A father automatically has parental responsibility for a child from birth if he is married to the mother or is named on the birth certificate.

Even in the absence of parental responsibility, the child has a right to a relationship with the father and parental responsibility can be acquired through the court if the mother is hostile to it.

The law provides that fathers should have “reasonable access” to their children. However, there is no set guidelines for what that means in practice.

Sioned said it is important that fathers know their rights.

“Fathers can find themselves on the sharp end of a very limited amount of contact with their children because the mother will not agree more,” she said.

“They are often confronted with opposition because of claims including the mother is the primary caregiver, the children need routine, or they are too young, that the father can’t meet their care needs or just that the children don’t like it at the father’s house.

“Even if some of these objections are reasonable, fathers need the confidence and advice as to how to overcome these challenges.

“These issues are not black and white and fathers need creative solutions in order to overcome them.”

Sioned said Higgs always tries to negotiate arrangements out of court in the first instance but conceded that court action is sometimes required.

She said: “We are extremely capable at mounting persuasive court cases which enable children to spend a far greater amount of time with their fathers, including ensuring that arrangements are made for special occasions such as Father’s Day, meaning that this does not have to be negotiated each year.

“A recent example includes a case where we acted for a father where the mother was opposed to the child spending meaningful time with father and sought to significantly limit that time owing to the manner in which their relationship had broken down. As she considered herself to be the primary caregiver, and the child was still a toddler, she argued the child should have an unequal relationship with the father.

“We were able to secure an equal 50/50 order where the child lived with both parents, together with extended overnight time between the child and father every year for Father’s Day in addition to half of all school holidays including Christmas”.

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