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.
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
- For advice please contact one of the specialists in our Family Team.
- What happens if I cannot agree arrangements for our children with the other parent?
- 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.
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.