Legal Rights for Non-Traditional Families

In today’s modern world, there are many different types of families as opposed to the more ‘traditional’ family settings which would have been considered e.g. male and female married couples.

There are a variety of non-traditional families which do not fit this mold, and they have different laws and rights associated with them. Especially when children are involved and the family breaks down, leading to separation and divorce.

The evolution of family continues to grow and non-traditional families continue to grow also. If this sounds like your family set up, then read on to find your legal rights when it comes to children

What is a non-traditional family?

A non-traditional family refers to a family that is not made up of one mother, one father, plus children.

Anything that is out of this scope is considered a non-traditional family.

What are the different types of family structures?

Let’s take a look at the different family structures and their associated parental rights.

Same-sex partner families

Same-sex partner families refer to a family that is made up of two parents who are of the same sex e.g. two men or two women.

A same-sex relationship could have children from a previous heterosexual relationship, children from surrogacy or adopted children.

The divorce process is the same in a same-sex partnership as it is for a heterosexual partnership. It is only different if it is a civil partnership and not a marriage.

A birth mother will always have legal parental rights and have parental responsibility. Although, a partner can still obtain parental responsibility for a child by signing a parental responsibility agreement. 

Blended families

Family sitting on bed, young girl playing, mother holding baby

Blended families are families that consist of children from previous relationships that the couples were involved in.

As the child is between two separate parents and therefore two separate families it is imperative that communication is open.

The two parties can come to an arrangement which can allow appropriate time for the child with each parent and family.  

If an agreement cannot be agreed then it will be a case for the courts to deal with to map out allocated times with the child/children. 

Extended families

In some families, the children can enjoy a fruitful relationship with not only their parents but their extended family e.g. grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins etc.

If extended family members wish to spend time with a child of a divorced or separated parent then they should ask the parent to do so.

Sometimes these agreements can be done mutually without the need for legal action. If this cannot be done due to a communication breakdown, then the family member can apply for ‘leave’.

What this means is getting permission from the court for a Child Arrangements Order. A positive note is that the courts are increasingly recognising the importance of children having contact with their extended family members.  

Families with cohabiting parents

3 children sitting on a path enjoying the sun

Cohabiting families consist of two people who live together but are not married. 

Parental responsibility at birth is automatically granted to the mother of the child. For the father it is different depending on what date the child was born and if they are on the child’s birth certificate or not. 

Single parent families

Single-parent families are when one parent is raising one or more children by themselves. Single-parent families are a lot more common in today’s society than they were only a few years ago. It is estimated that one in four families are single-parent families

A mother is nearly always expected to become the parent with care if a divorce or separation happens. This is due to their automatic rights of parental responsibility when the child is born.

Of course, this depends on the relationship they have with their ex-partner. If they also have parental responsibility, then they have the right to see their child. 

If they don’t then they can apply for parental responsibility.  

Brown Turner Ross – Advice for non-traditional family divorces

We understand that divorce can be a stressful time, especially for non-traditional families. There can be a lot of ambiguity especially when it comes to parental rights.

If you are someone who is experiencing a divorce and want to get some advice on how the proceedings can affect your parental rights, then contact us today.

We have a team of helpful and friendly staff who have extensive experience in divorce procedures.

Southport Solicitors

Tel: 0170-454 2002

Fax: 0170-454 3144

11 St George's Place

Lord Street



Liverpool Solicitors

Tel: 0151-236 2233

Fax: 0170-454 3144

The Cotton Exchange Building

Bixteth Street


L3 9LQ