Father’s Rights For Overnight Stays

emily gordon brown
Emily Gordon BrownLegal Assessment Specialist @ Lawhive
Updated on 29th January 2024

When a relationship between two parents comes to an end, they will need to decide where their child will live and when they will spend time with each parent.

In the UK, both parents are legally required to maintain contact with their child, provided that it is in the child's best interest.

This responsibility extends to overnight stays, which can be important in creating strong and lasting connections between a father and their child.


In cases where parents cannot come to an agreement on child arrangements, including overnight stays, they may need to pursue a court order to formalise a legally binding agreement.

In this guide, we'll explore:

  • Fathers' rights for overnight stays in UK Family Law;

  • Factors considered by the Family Court;

  • Parenting plans and child arrangements;

  • Tips for planning an overnight stay;

  • Key considerations.

Fathers Rights for overnight stays in UK family law

In this situation, it's important to understand the legal aspects of child arrangement.

For fathers in the UK, knowing their rights regarding overnight stays within the family is important.

The UK Family Law Act 1996 is a legal framework governing child arrangements, visitation, and overnight stays. This act was established to ensure the welfare of the child is the primary consideration when making decisions related to parenting arrangements. It acts to make sure that the best interests of the child are met when a marriage ends and to prioritise children’s safety and happiness.

The law states that both parents, whether married or separated, have a role to play in the child's life, and that the child should have a good relationship with both parents, as long as it’s safe and makes the child happy.

Visitation Rights

Sometimes, one parent doesn't live with the child all the time. In these cases, visitation rights come into play. It means the child spends time with the non-resident parent. The law says that both parents should have the chance to see their child regularly, even if they don't live together.

Overnight Stays

Overnight stays are when a child spends the night at one parent's house, usually the one they don't live with all the time. These stays are important because they help children keep a strong bond with both parents.

Factors considered by the Family Court

In family law and the family court process, the well-being of the child takes precedence.

The Family Court's primary concern is to make decisions that are in the child's best interest. This means that the court will consider what arrangements will provide the child with a stable and supportive environment. The child's safety, health, and emotional well-being are paramount.

Several factors are considered by the family court when determining child arrangements and overnight stays for fathers:

The child's age and maturity

The court will consider the age of the child and whether they are mature enough for overnight stays with their father. The court will assess and take into consideration the emotional needs and development stage of the child.

The father’s ability to provide for the child

The court will consider and assess the father’s emotional, financial, and physical abilities to support the child. The court will assess the father’s living conditions and their ability to provide a safe and appropriate environment for the child.

The child's relationship with the father

The court evaluates the quality of the relationship between the child and father. If the child and the father have an established relationship and a strong bond, this can positively influence the court’s decision to grant overnight stays.

The child's preferences and wishes

If the child is old enough and has developed an appropriate level of maturity and understanding, their opinions on custody and overnight stays may be considered in court.

Stability and routine

The court will assess if the father can provide stability and continuity in the child's life, and can meet the child’s needs during overnight stays.

Protection from harm

The court is particularly concerned with protecting the child from harm, whether it's physical harm or emotional distress. This means that if a particular arrangement or decision would be detrimental to the child, the court is likely to intervene to ensure the child's safety.

Overnight stays in Parenting Plans or Child Arrangements

The court encourages parents to create parenting plans or child arrangements that include provisions for overnight stays with the father.

These plans should be detailed and consider the child's needs and schedules. If both parents can agree on these arrangements, it's more likely that the court will approve them.

Key considerations:

  1. Communication and Cooperation: Start by having open and respectful communication with the child's other parent (your ex-partner). Being able to talk openly and cooperate is crucial for creating a successful plan.

  2. Understand Your Child's Needs: Consider the child's age, daily routine, school schedule, and extracurricular activities. This will help you create a plan that fits their needs. Encourage the child to express their feelings and opinions about the plan if appropriate. This can help them feel more comfortable with the arrangement.

  3. Consistency: Try to create a consistent schedule. Children feel more secure when they know what to expect. For example, if the child spends every other weekend with their father, try to stick to that schedule.

  4. Be Flexible: While consistency is important, life can be unpredictable. Be prepared to be flexible when needed. If there's a special event or the child wants to spend more time with one parent on occasion, it's okay to adjust the plan.

  5. Think About Special Days: Consider holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions. Decide how these days will be shared between both parents. For instance, one year, the child may spend Christmas with the father, and the next year with the mother.

  6. Specify Pickup and Drop-Off Details: Determine where and what time the child will be picked up and dropped off. This helps prevent any confusion.

  7. Child's Belongings: Make sure the child has everything they need at both homes, like school uniforms, medication, and season appropriate clothing. It's helpful to create a checklist to ensure nothing gets left behind.

  8. Legal Assistance: If you and the other parent are unable to agree on the plan, you might need to involve a solicitor or mediator who specialises in family law. They can help you navigate the legal process and create a plan that works for everyone involved.

  9. Document the Plan: Once you and the other parent have agreed on the plan, it's a good idea to document it in writing. This can be done with the help of a legal professional or through a parenting plan template. Having a written plan can be helpful if any disputes arise in the future.

  10. Be Willing to Adjust: As your child grows and their needs change, be prepared to adjust the plan. What works for a young child might not work for a teenager.

  11. Keep the Child's Best Interests in Mind: Remember that the ultimate goal of the plan is to provide a stable and loving environment for the child. Make decisions based on what's in their best interest, even if it means compromising with the other parent.

Creating a parenting plan or child arrangement that includes provisions for overnight stays with the father requires cooperation, understanding, and a focus on the child's well-being. By following these steps and keeping communication open, you can create a plan that benefits everyone involved, especially the child.

Can my partner stop me from having my child overnight?

In some cases, your partner may not want the other parent to have the child overnight. However, it's essential to remember that both parents have rights and responsibilities.

Whether they can legally stop the other parent from having overnight stays with a child depends on various factors, including their legal rights, the best interests of the child, and the specific circumstances.

In these cases, you should consider:

  1. Legal Rights: In many cases, both parents have equal legal rights to spend time with their child, including having overnight stays. This is especially true if there is no court order or legal agreement specifying otherwise.

  2. Child's Best Interests: The family court's primary concern is the best interests of the child. If your partner believes that overnight stays with you are not in the child's best interests and can provide valid reasons for this, they might take the matter to court.

  3. Valid Reasons: To legally prevent you from having overnight stays, your partner would generally need to provide valid reasons supported by evidence. This could include concerns about the child's safety, emotional well-being, or any other factors that they believe may be compromised during overnight stays with you.

  4. Mediation: Before going to court, it's often recommended for parents to attempt family mediation or negotiation to resolve disagreements regarding custody and visitation. Mediation can help both parties find a mutually acceptable solution.

  5. Court Involvement: If you and your partner cannot reach an agreement, a court may need to make a decision. The court will consider the child's best interests and may involve professionals like social workers, psychologists, or child custody evaluators to assess the situation.

  6. Existing Court Orders: If there is an existing court order or legally binding agreement in place regarding child arrangements, both parents are expected to adhere to it. Violating a court order can have legal consequences.

If you and your partner can't come to an agreement regarding custody and overnight stays, it's advisable to consult a solicitor who specialises in family law. They can guide you through the legal process and help ensure your rights as a father are protected.

At what age can a child stay overnight with their father?

The age at which a child can stay overnight with their father can vary depending on the child's development and the specific circumstances.

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. It's more about assessing the child's individual needs, maturity, and comfort level. The court will consider the child's best interests, and in some cases, the child's wishes may be taken into account.


When it comes to family law matters, it’s important to consider the best interests of any children who are affected by a divorce or separation.

Father’s looking for advice on overnight stays and their rights when it comes to child arrangements can seek help from our team of expert solicitors, who are on hand to provide advice and guidance. Tell us about your case to get started today.

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