Where parents are unmarried and separate, they can make provision as to the guardianship, custody and access to the child or children of the relationship. A guardian of a child has the right to be consulted on all matters affecting the upbringing of the child, for example, signing passport forms. Custody is the day-to-day care and control of the child. Access is the right to see and to communicate with the child.
Where parents are unmarried, the mother will automatically have guardianship and custody rights to the child or children. The natural father is not automatically a guardian to his child or children. In order to become guardian of his children the father must (a) make an application to the Court to have him declared guardian; or (b) make a declaration with the mother of the child that he is the guardian and that they have entered into arrangements for custody and access of the child.
Both parents can make agreement as to custody or access of the child or the father can apply to Court for custody Orders or more usually access Orders. As with guardianship applications, and all applications involving children, the welfare of the child is of the paramount importance.