Family Law – Access to children and cohabiting couples

If you have a right of access to a child, you have the right to spend time with the child and to take the child out for specified periods of time. You may also have the right to have overnight access with the child and the right to go on holidays with the child for a proportion of the school holidays.

When the parents of a child separate and they cannot agree on access rights, the courts will decide. The welfare of the child will be the most important factor to be taken into account by the court prior to making a determination on the issue. In general, the courts consider that it is very important for the welfare of a child that it should have a relationship with both parents and they are slow to deny access rights to the natural parent of a child.

By law, unmarried mothers are the sole guardians of children born outside of marriage. A father may apply for access whether or not he is a guardian. He can do this even if his name is not on the child’s birth certificate and even where his application for joint guardianship has been turned down.

If both guardianship and access are being applied for, then separate applications must be made, but both applications will be heard by the court at the same time.

Unless there are unusual circumstances, the unmarried mother is usually granted custody of her child and the unmarried father is granted access rights.

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