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What is reasonable access for fathers in the UK?

By , on Wednesday February 14, 2024 at 10:26 am

The rights of parents and especially fathers to spend time with their children after a couple separate can be a highly complex and emotive issue. It’s unfortunately common to hear tales of fathers who are being denied the right to access their children, leading them to question what rights they have.

In the UK, the law focuses on the rights of the child to have an ongoing and meaningful relationship with both parents. This means that fathers will have a legal right to have contact with their child.

Despite this, there often remains some confusion over what child access rights for fathers actually mean and the level of access that is considered to be reasonable.

Child access and father’s rights are specialist areas for our family law team. We can provide tailored guidance on your situation and the options available to you if you have any questions or concerns about your ability to access your children and spend quality time with them.

What is considered ‘reasonable access’?

There isn’t  strict legal guidance for ‘reasonable access’. Ultimately, it will depend on the individual circumstances of every family and what is in the best interests of the children.

This means that reasonable access won’t necessarily mean equal time between both parents. The focus for parents should be to prioritise the best interests of the child – something the courts will also uphold if they are required to intervene.

When the matter of reasonable access relates to older children, their own wishes will also become an important factor to consider.

How much access is a father entitled to in the UK?

Again, there is no strict minimum access rights for fathers. Parents should try to agree an arrangement between themselves based on what the best interests of the children are. If a voluntary agreement cannot be agreed between both parents, an application can be made to the court. In which case a judge will make a decision considering all circumstances, including a father’s ability to meet their child’s emotional, physical and financial needs.

Given that every family unit is unique, there are no hard and fast rules on the minimum level of contact a father is entitled to.

How many hours a week can a father see his child?

There are no set limits on the number of hours a father can see his children for each week. In some cases, a suitable arrangement may be for a father to see his child on one weekend per month, while another may be for the child to spend alternate weeks with each parent. It is very much context dependent. Parents should always try to reach an agreement between them if at all possible, with the child’s best interests at the heart of any decision.

Is every other weekend reasonable access?

Potentially. Whether or not this is the case will depend on what has previously been agreed between both parents and whether this arrangement is suited to the needs to the children.

Can a father’s access be restricted?

We are all too aware that, during difficult separations, mothers sometimes take steps to prevent fathers from seeing their children.

The children’s mother will not usually legally be able to prevent a father from accessing their child. Only if it can be demonstrated that the father having access to his child would be detrimental to the child’s welfare or would not be in their best interests will this be endorsed by the Courts.

If you are finding it difficult to come to an agreement over access to your children, there are a number of options available to you. For instance, both parents could attend mediation sessions to discuss their concerns and try to reach a mutually agreeable arrangement that is in the best interests of their children.

In some cases, it may be necessary to apply for a Child Arrangements Order through the courts. This is an order which can be enforced by the courts if its terms are broken.

Our family law solicitors nationwide are here for you

As a father, we know that navigating your parental rights can be challenging, particularly if you are estranged from your child’s mother. As we have discussed, while your child does have a legal right to have a relationship with you, you could find yourself having to take certain steps in order to secure regular contact. This is where the support and expertise of our solicitors can be vital.

If you are being denied access to see your child, or you need further advice on the steps you may be able to take to secure regular contact, our specialist family law solicitors will be available to provide you with the advice you need.

At Woolley & Co Solicitors, our team are here to provide tailored advice on child access rights for fathers and to make any legal steps as simple and stress-free as possible.

To take advantage of your free 30-minute consultation with our expert family law solicitors, call 0800 321 3832, or complete our quick online form.

Nick Wiseman
Divorce & Family Lawyer, Norwich

Blog Author - Nick Wiseman

Nick WisemanNick Wiseman

Nick is an experienced and approachable family lawyer with Woolley & Co, based in Norwich. He specialises in all areas of relationship breakdown and enjoys an excellent reputation.


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