Can you ever force a parent to be a parent?

Can you actually force a parent to 'be' a parent when they decide that the role isn't for them? We look at the legal side of this debate.


As a family law solicitor I am often consulted by parents, usually fathers (and so for the purposes of this article I will assume that is the situation), who are determined to continue to be a big part of their child’s life despite splitting from the child’s mother. Those fathers that I meet that find themselves in that situation are keen to spend as much time as possible with their child and would not want to ever miss an important occasion such as a Birthday, Christmas or Holidays. Those fathers are so dedicated to their child that if suitable arrangements cannot be agreed between them and their ex-partner they will engage the services of someone like myself and embark on what is sometimes a long and expensive process though the courts to ensure that they remain a constant and important part of their child’s life.

But what if the father is not like the usual father described above and does not want to spend time with, or be involved in their child’s life or perhaps does not want to be as involved as the mother would like them to be? What happens then, how can the mother force the father to be involved? How does the law work for children in that situation?


Quite frankly, it does not. There is nothing in law which can force a parent to be involved or more involved in their child’s life if they choose not to be.
The right to spend time with a parent is the child’s right, not the parents’, but if the parent does not want to spend time with their child then that child’s right is lost. How can the court or anyone else force a parent to spend time with their child? Simply, they can not. Sadly, if a parent decides that they do not want to be involved in their child’s life or does not want to spend regular, quality time with their child there is no way to force them to do so.

A child has a right to spend time with both parents and if one parent is trying to prevent the other from spending time with the child then that parent would be able to rely on the law to determine whether or not it is in the child’s best interest to spend time with them. The importance of children having relationships with each parent following separation was reinforced by the Children and Families Act 2014. The court can, upon application of a parent, make orders relating to the living arrangements of a child and when, where and by what means that child will spend time with the other parent.

The frequency and amount of time a child will spend with each parent will differ from family to family. There is no formula to calculate what amount of time is suitable and there is no precedent as to what a child arrangements order will look like, it will depend on the individual family and their circumstances. Equally, there is no legal definition as to what would amount to a reasonable amount of time. Some parents spend an equal amount of time with their child, some parents split their time between weekdays and weekends or every other weekends. There is no right or wrong, it is whatever works best for the child.


If you are in this difficult position, Pinney Talfourd are here to help. We have a large experienced and dedicated team of specialist family lawyers and we would be happy to help you through this difficult time. We can offer late appointments from Monday to Thursday in each of our offices in Upminster, Hornchurch and Brentwood and your initial 30 minute consultation will be free.

If you would like more information please contact our Family Law Department on 01708 229444  (Upminster or Hornchurch), 01277 211755 (Brentwood office) or 01702 418433 (Leigh-on-Sea). 
We offer a free initial 30 minute consultation for all new family law enquiries. You can book your free initial family consultation using our online booking form or by calling your local office. This half hour appointment will allow you to explain the situation with an expert lawyer and discuss the best steps to minimise delays.

This article was written by Jennifer Herbert, a family lawyer based at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors' Upminster office. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of January 2017.


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Family Department lead the way in Legal 500 rankings

Legal 500 UK results have just been announced and the Family Law team are celebrating a move up to Tier 2 in the rankings.

We are delighted to announce that the Family Law Department are now ranked as Tier 2 firm by Legal 500 UK 2016

Leading firm in brentwood and havering

This means that we are now the leading firm in our local boroughs of Havering and Brentwood, beating stiff competition from other firms in Romford and Brentwood.

Our team includes members of the Law Society’s Family Panel and Advanced Family Panel, accredited Resolution specialists and Collaborative Family Lawyers.

Legal 500 UK writes “Catherine Polli and Sebastian Burrows at Pinney Talfourd LLP are singled out as being ‘excellent, intelligent and thoughtful solicitors’.”

notable cases

  • Court of Appeal Children Act proceedings for leave to remove from the jurisdiction
  • High Court case reported in the nationl press. Successful application was made to rescind the Decree Nisi upon the basis of bigamy
  • Financial Remedy Proceedings involving assets circa £10million involving company valuations.

The Legal 500 rankings are carefully selected after rigorous assessment and provide a guide to the top legal providers across the UK.

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School holidays cause stress for separated parents

School holidays for separated parents are not always plain sailing. Courts and law firms see a huge rise in children related enquiries in holidays. 

As the summer holidays were heating up so were disputes between separated parents. September is set to be a busy month for new children matters being issued at the court with the school summer holidays kicking up all kinds of disputes.

Parents often find school holidays, whether it is Summer, Easter or Christmas the most difficult times of the year. During the long summer break parents find themselves arguing about when and for how long each of them should spend with the children and whether or not either parent can travel abroad with their children for the purpose of a holiday.

Despite the court rule changes in 2014 requiring that disputing parents attend mediation prior to issuing any court application, save for urgent or exempt applications, the stats from the Court advisory service (CAFCASS) show that parental disputes are still on the rise.

In July 2016, CAFCASS received 3,468 new cases and the number of new cases received in the first quarter of the current financial year is up by nearly 10% compared to last year. August figures will no doubt be just as high.

Our family law specialists are trained to advise and assist parents in these situations to resolve matters, whether that be by way of negotiation or via the court. The team includes members of the Law Society’s Family Panel and Advanced Family Panel, accredited Resolution specialists and Collaborative Family Lawyers.

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Naming a Child - can the courts intervene?

If you were thinking of naming your child after a notorious poison, think again! Court of Appeal bans mother from naming her child 'Cyanide'.
Following a recent judgement in the Court of Appeal parents are given fair warning to think very carefully before naming their child something which may be construed as emotionally harmful. 

Lady Justice King in the Court of Appeal has banned a mother from naming her child ‘Cyanide’. The Family court at Swansea initially ordered that the mother of twin children, a boy and a girl, could not name them ‘Cyanide’ and ‘Preacher’ and put in place an injunction preventing her from doing so. The mother was determined to name her children as she so pleased and took her case to the Court of Appeal.

The mother was suffering from a psychotic disorder and schizophrenia, worsened by her abuse of drugs and alcohol. The court therefore had to determine whether her parenting capacity was so impaired that the court could intervene and actually prevent a mother, with parental responsibility, from registering a child with any name she chooses.

Lady Justice King gave judgement in the Court of Appeal upholding the decision of the lower court. The court decided that the name ‘Cyanide’ would cause such significant emotional harm to the child that it was right to interfere with the mother’s choice of name. Lady Justice King confirmed that the court does have the power to prevent a parent from giving their child a specific name in extreme cases only, and only with the authorization of a High court judge.

If you are interested and want to read the full judgement, the case citation is C (Children) [2016] EWCA Civ 364.

This case reminds us of the nine year old girl named by her parents ‘Talula Does the Hula from Hawaii’. In this 2008 New Zealand case the parents temporarily lost care of their own daughter for giving her that name.

Interestingly, in New Zealand, parents have been allowed to register their child’s name as; Midnight; Chardonnay; Violence; Number 16 Bus Shelter and twins named Benson and Hedges.

Parents to be, be warned, by following the apparent trend and in the footsteps of a number of celebrities, if you are considering naming your child something completely off the wall please do give consideration to the emotional impact this may have on your child or else face the intervention of the court.

More information

If you would like more information please contact our Family Law Department on 01708 229444 or book a free initial family consultation using our online booking form.

This article was written by Jennifer Herbert, Family Law solicitor at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as at April 2016.

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Parental responsibility and your child's surname

We look at the issue of parental responsibility over the summer period and the issue of a child's surname when travelling abroad.

Given the summer holidays are soon approaching we are receiving a number of enquires regarding parental responsibility and particularly the issue of where the child’s surname is the same as the father’s but the parents are no longer together.
For example, some requests we are receiving  are to assist with a change of name deed so that the child’s surname can be changed to either the mother’s surname or the stepfather’s surname to assist with the child’s passport application or schools admission form.  
However, this is not possible where the child is born from 1 December 2003 and the father’s name is on the birth certificate or the parties are married or have been married.  In such cases, the father’s consent to the change of name is required or failing this an application will need to be made to the court for the Judge to decide whether it would be in the child’s best interests for the surname to be changed. This is a lengthy and costly process and could be avoided if the parents at the time of registering the child’s birth adopted both parents surnames. 
This approach would also assist when travelling out of the jurisdiction without the father particularly as some clients have reported being questioned by immigration officers both in this country and abroad for fear the child has been abducted because they do not have the same surname as the mother.

Find out more

For more information on your particular case please contactour Family Law Team on 01708 22944

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