|To discuss, in strict confidence, any issue concerning Divorce, Separation, Family Law, or Family Mediation, our Family Law Team is available on 01225 462871. Alternatively, you can email them, or complete the contact form at the foot of this page.|
Child Custody Advice
Whether you are married or not, if your relationship breaks down and you are a parent, you will have to make important decisions about the future arrangements for your children.
Often it is difficult to agree on the best way forward with your former partner. The children solicitors in our Family Team specialises in helping families sort out arrangements for children following the breakdown of a relationship. We are committed to resolving matters amicably and sensitively and, if it is necessary for the court to make a decision in your case, we will represent and guide you through the family court process.
We can provide advice on:
- Child Arrangements Orders (formerly Residence and Contact Orders);
- Specific Issue Orders;
- Prohibited Steps Orders;
- Parental Responsibility;
- Relocation – domestic and international;
- Child Abduction;
- Changing a child’s name.
“I would like to thank you for your time, patience and expert advice; I have truly appreciated your assistance in what has at times been a pretty stressful episode.” DH, Client
Child Custody Mediation
From the perspective of a child, a custody dispute epitomises the worst thing about divorce or separation: getting caught, or put, in the middle of a war between your parents.
How parents manage the immediate aftermath of their separation, and how well professionals help them to do so, can be critical to their children’s well-being. With this in mind, our Mediator offers child-focused mediation to separating parents with the aim of helping them negotiate the terms of their separation without exacerbating their pain and anger. Few separations can be ‘happy’ or ‘good’ but mediation can assist with ensuring separation is not as bad as it might be, especially for children.
Custody mediation or mediation for child access helps both parents to put in place arrangements for their children that can work for all the family both in the short and long term by focusing not just on their own needs and perspectives, but on those of the children as well. This requires both parents to really listen to, and respect, one another as they make the difficult transition from parenting together to parenting apart.
Our Mediation Solicitor has also had specialist training to be able to meet with your child if this is what both parents want – known as child inclusive mediation.
Any proposals reached by you both in mediation can be incorporated into a parenting plan by the Mediator. Alternatively, if you would both like your proposals to be legally binding, you may choose to apply to the court for a ‘consent order’; this is a way of obtaining an order amicably – without a court battle.
“I like to say thank you for all the help you have given me personally and at a very difficult time. I am so glad that we decided to use the mediation process and chose you as our mediator. You input has been invaluable.” JH, Client
Child Inclusive Mediation
Child inclusive mediation is where a Mediator meets with the child or children of a mediating couple, usually on just one occasion, during the mediation process. It only happens with the consent of both parents and the child.
The meeting with the child is confidential (unless there are any child protection issues) and provides an opportunity for the child to share any thoughts, worries, concerns and wishes that they have about their experience of their parents’ separation if they wish to do so.
Very often the child will ask the Mediator to pass to their parents certain information that they would like their parents to take into consideration when making decisions about them in mediation. Strictly with the child’s permission, the Mediator will then bring the child’s voice into the mediation.
Research shows that children of separated parents like to be kept informed and appreciate having their views heard; involving them in the mediation process can be a good way to do this. At the same time, children need to understand that they are not the decision-makers. Parents remain the ones to make the decisions and, with the benefit of feedback from their children, they are able to do so with a full understanding of the needs and feelings of every member of the family.
Our Child Mediator has received specialist training to meet with children and has been DRB checked. Child meetings usually last around 45 minutes. Siblings will be seen separately or together depending on what the children themselves prefer. Children should generally be aged 10 or over, but in exceptional circumstances, younger children may be seen.
“Sarah Jackson was understanding, compassionate, knowledgeable and guided me to reach the conclusion I sought with all the help and support I needed.” SC, Client
- What happens if we cannot agree on arrangements for our children?
- What type of Order do I need – Child Arrangements, Specific Issue or Prohibited Steps?
- Will the court be on my side?
- What is Parental Responsibility?
- Can I take my children on holiday abroad?
- Do I need the other parent’s consent if I want to relocate – within the UK or abroad?
- Can I /Do I have to sort this out at mediation?
What happens if we cannot agree on arrangements for our children?
When a relationship ends parents will, in an ideal world, negotiate to agree the living and other arrangements for the welfare of any child of that relationship. However, not all parents find it easy to come to an agreement and many parents ask us to negotiate on their behalf. In the event that an agreement cannot be reached or there are welfare issues, we can assist you to make an appropriate application to the court to protect your child. We can also represent a parent who has received notification of a court application being made by the other parent.
What type of Order do I need?
There are various Orders for which a parent can apply to the court to protect the best interests of a child, depending on the issue in dispute. These include:
- a Child Arrangements Order (formerly known as “Residence” and “Contact” orders): This is an order which settles where a child will live and how much time they are to spend with each parent.
- a Specific Issue Order: You can apply for a specific issue order when you wish the court to settle a specific issue that is in dispute, for example, which school your child should attend.
- a Prohibited Steps Order: This can limit a parent from taking a particular step in relation to a child, for example, taking the child abroad.
Will the court be on my side?
When a court is determining any question about issues relating to a child, the welfare of the child is the court’s paramount consideration. The court is also required to have regard to a statutory checklist of factors whenever it considers making orders relating to children:
- The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned, in the light of his or her age and understanding.
- His or her physical, emotional and educational needs.
- The likely affect on him/her in any change in his/her circumstances.
- His/her age, sex, background and any characteristics of his/her, which the court considers relevant.
- Any harm which he or she has suffered or is at risk of suffering.
- How capable each parent and any other relevant person is of meeting his/her needs.
- The range of powers available to the court under the Children Act 1989 in the proceedings in question.
What is Parental Responsibility?
Parental responsibility consists of “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property” (section 3(1), Children Act 1989). A person with parental responsibility may make decisions about the child’s property and welfare (including but not limited to religious upbringing, accommodation, education and medical treatment). More than one person can have parental responsibility for a child at any time and each person with parental responsbility can act alone in meeting their responsibility (section 2(5) and (7), Children Act 1989). The exercise of parental responsibility can therefore cause conflict between those who share it.
We can give you detailed advice about which decisions can be made independently and which need to be notified or made in consultation with others with parental responsibility. If no agreement can be reached, we can assist you in referring the decision to be made to the court for determination.
Can I take my children on holiday abroad?
If a parent wishes to take a child under the age of 16 out of England and Wales then they should seek the consent of any individuals with parental responsibility. If they do not do so there is a potential risk that they may have committed a criminal offence under the Child Abduction Act 1984. If an agreement cannot be reached by consent, then it may be necessary for one of the parents to make an application to court.
However, if a residence order or a Child Arrangements order has been made by the court, the order may state that the person with whom a child is to live has authority to take the child out of England and Wales for a period up to 28 days without the consent of the other parent or anyone else with parental responsibility.
“Sarah Jackson was extremely professional, proactive and thorough, whilst being friendly and approachable. She communicated well, kept me up to date and explained the processes throughout. She provided an excellent service and made everything as straightforward as possible for me.” SS, Client
Relocation – domestic and international
If a parent wishes to relocate with a child, they should seek the consent of any other individuals who have parental responsibility for that child. Relocating, whether in England and Wales or internationally, can be a big decision, particularly where children are involved. This makes such cases very difficult. If an order is made to allow a child to relocate with one parent there is likely to be an impact upon the relationship the child will have with the other parent. This is something the court will consider together with, amongst other things, the impact on the parent who wishes to relocate if an order were made preventing the child from doing so.
Can I / Do I have to sort this out at Mediation?
Family mediation is one of the dispute resolution options available to a separating couple. If you wish to explore mediation as an option, please contact one of the specialists in our Family team or our Mediator. If parents cannot reach an agreement and court proceedings are contemplated, there is an expectation now that they should first attempt to resolve matters at mediation. However, mediation is not suitable in every case and sometimes applying to the court is the only way to resolve matters in the best interests of the children.
Contact and Resources
To discuss, in strict confidence, any issue concerning children’s arrangements, our Family Law Team are available on 01225 462871, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See our helpful Guides covering every aspect of Divorce and Family Law.