Issues Relating To Children
When parents separate, the welfare of their children is of the utmost importance. Issues such as who will the children live with and what arrangements need to be made to ensure the children are able to spend time with their absent parent will inevitably arise.
It is usually best for the separating parents to work together to come to an arrangement the suits both parties and is in the interests of their children. Parents should consider a Parenting Plan and a useful website for more information on this is www.cafcass.gov.uk.
Unfortunately, it is not always possible for separating couples to agree about what is best for their children. They might disagree over which parent the child should live with or what the contact arrangements should be.
When communication breaks down between separated parents, a mediator can help them to find a resolution. A mediator is an impartial and independent person who works with both partners to help them find a suitable agreement.
A significant requirement is in force from 6th April 2011: a Mediation Assessment is required for separating parents before going to court.
Going to Court
In cases where mediation is unsuccessful, the courts can assess what the contact and residence arrangements should be for a child.
What Orders Are Available?
Different court orders are available, depending on the particular circumstances of the case, including:
- Child Arrangements Order
This order stipulates where the child lives and how much time they will spend with each parent.
- Specific Issue Order
This order relates to a specific aspect of a child’s upbringing which parents are not able to agree on, such as which school the children should attend.
- Prohibited Steps Order
These orders restrict a parent’s exercise of their parental responsibility. These orders are protective in nature, like an Injunction, and can be useful to prevent a parent from attending at a child’s school or preventing a parent from removing a child from the other parent.
A parent must have Parental Responsibility to apply for one of these orders. A mother always has Parental responsibility. The father will also have parental responsibility if he is married to the child’s mother or named on the child’s birth certificate (this applies after a certain date in different parts of the UK).
Other family members, such as grandparents, can apply for orders with the permission of the court. It is recognised that grandparents have an important role to play in their grandchildren’s lives and often a court will allow an application where it would be in the best interests of the children to do so.
We have considerable experience in assisting with issues regarding children:
- Child Arrangements
- Specific issues (key decisions in respect of the child)
- Prohibitive Steps Orders (to prevent an action in respect of the child)
- Parental Responsibility Agreements (by agreement)
- Parental Responsibility Orders (by order of the Court)
- Special Guardianship Orders (SGO)
- Removal of children (temporary or permanent)
We also deal with care proceedings and issues pertaining to potential care proceedings.
Our fees are charged on a time-spent basis at the rate of £240+vat per hour. Wherever possible we will look to offer a fixed fee in relation to court attendance.
Please also note that from April 2013 the scope of Legal Aid no longer includes children related matters unless there is domestic violence involved or Social Services are applying to remove your children. If you believe that you may be eligible for Legal Aid, please discuss this with us when arranging your initial meeting.
If you have any concerns regarding arrangements for your children, contact our accredited family law solicitor for advice.