The arrangements for the care of children following the breakdown of a relationship are of paramount importance. After separation, the first consideration is where and with whom the children should live and what level of contact the children should have with the non-resident parent. We are able to help you address these issues swiftly and in a sensitive manner.
Wherever possible our approach is to reach agreement through constructive negotiation and mediation, this is always the best option, though sadly it is not possible in all cases. If you cannot agree then you may need to go to Court so they can look at what is in the child’s best interests and whether there are any welfare issues that need to be addressed, the most important consideration will always be the welfare of the child or children concerned.
If an application to Court becomes necessary our experienced family lawyers will prepare the paperwork, attend Court alongside you, put your case to the Court and advise you at every step in the proceedings.
Some of the Orders the Court can make under the Children Act 1989 are:
- Residence Order – where a child is to live
- Contact Order – when and how a child is to spend time with the non-resident parent
- Parental Responsibility – giving a person legal status as a parent
- Prohibited Steps Order – restricting how a parent exercises their Parental Responsibility
- Specific Issue Order – deals with a specific aspect of a child’s welfare e.g. their schooling, medical treatment or consent to move abroad
- Special Guardianship Orders – permanently placing a child with someone who is not their parent and giving that person Parental Responsibility
- Financial provision – for the benefit of a child. This can be maintenance, a lump sum or property
- Adoption – of a child whether placed with you by social services, or the child of your partner or a child from overseas
- We have heard of Mediation, what is mediation and would it help?
- I do not want to go to Court, do we have to?
- Where will contact takes place, I don’t want him/her near my address? What is a contact centre?
- Can I change my child’s surname?
- I am not happy in this country, can I emigrate with the children?
Mediation is another way of resolving your dispute. It can be helpful where there are no child welfare issues and the dispute is simply about the length and frequency of contact. We can refer you to an accredited mediation service.
You should only go to Court once all other avenues have been considered. You should try mediation. It’s always better if parties can reach an agreement themselves rather than have an order imposed by the Court.
Contact does not need to take place at either parent’s address. We will suggest a contact centre. A contact centre provides supportive and sometimes supervised contact facilities. Contact with your child can take place in the centre or the venue can be used to facilitate to handover the child from one parent to the other. They are usually voluntary organisations that have agreed to adhere to a set of national standards.
From the age of 16, a child can change his/her own name. In general, where only one person has parental responsibility, the name can be changed without the consent of the other parent. Where both parents have parental responsibility, the consent of both parents is required. In all other situations, a Court order is required.
If you wish to emigrate with your children then it is usually necessary to agree this with the other parent or people with parental responsibility. It is generally illegal to take children out of England and Wales without an agreement and there are potentially serious penalties if you do so. We have considerable experience in negotiating agreements to emigrate with children, making any agreement between you more formal. If you are being asked to agree to your children emigrating then it is sensible to obtain advice before agreeing as your rights may be seriously affected.