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Children

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Issues regarding children

Children are often the most emotive issue following a separation or divorce and are likely to be your biggest worry. If you and your former partner are finding it difficult to agree on the arrangements for your children, you are not alone. Most couples have some issues concerning their children, even if these disputes do not result in a formal application to Court.

As family solicitors, we can assist you in negotiating an agreement with your former partner about arrangements for your children. We can advise you about the options that are available to you to try to resolve issues whether this be through the mediation process, collaborative law or by making a formal application to Court.

From 22nd April 2014, mediation will be a prerequisite to any application to Court in relation to divorce, finances or children. The Court will have an ongoing obligation to consider family mediation at every stage of the Court process.

If you are divorcing, or dissolving a civil partnership, the Court will want to be satisfied that the arrangements you have made for your children are satisfactory. The Court will want to know who cares for your children, where they live and how often they see each of you.

If there are no disagreements about where your children should live and how often they should see each of you, it is more likely than not that the Court won’t make any orders in respect of them.

There are many orders that a Court can make regarding children but the main ones set out in the Children Act 1989 which from 22nd April 2014 are to change in line with the new Child Arrangements Programme. Terms such as Residence and Contact will no longer apply. Instead orders relating to children will be “Child Arrangements Order”. This is to assist with the presumption of co-operative parenting and to emphasise the importance of both parents in children’s lives. Parents will be encouraged and assisted to formulate parenting plans with the assistance of local Family Mediators and CAFCASS in certain cases.

Parental Responsibility:

The rights, obligations and legal duties of a person who is legally responsible for a child. If you are a step-parent or father who does not have Parental responsibility for your child, or a child who lives with you, you can apply to the Court for Parental responsibility.

Child Arrangements Orders:

There are a number of Orders that a Court can make in relation to arrangements for children which include where a child should live and how much time, how often and where a child should spend time with a parent he/she does not live with. There is no presumption as to the division of time a child should spend with each parent as this will depend upon the relevant circumstances and ultimately what is in your child/children’s best interests.

Residence:

A former term concerning where a child should live (“child custody disputes”).

Contact:

A former term concerning how much time, how often and where a child should spend time with a parent he/she does not live with (“access, visitation rights of fathers/mothers”)

Prohibited Steps:

To prevent something from happening in relation to a child eg. removing a child from a country, or preventing that child from coming into contact with someone

Specific Issue:

To decide a specific issue of parental responsibility about a child’s upbringing eg. where a child should go to school, whether a child should be allowed to travel aboard or taken on holiday without the consent of a parent.

  • Parents and those with parental responsibility can automatically make an application to Court for any of the above Orders. However other family members such as grandparents and step-parents will require the Court’s permission to make an application.

    The paramount consideration of the Court when deciding whether or not to make an Order concerning children is the welfare of the child. The Court will consider factors such as:

    • The child’s wishes and feelings
    • The needs of the child
    • The effect that any change of circumstances is likely to have
    • The child’s age, sex, background etc
    • Any harm the child may suffer or be at risk of suffering
    • How each party is capable of meeting the child’s needs

    When it comes to issues surrounding child maintenance, the Child Support Agency (CSA) has overall authority. We can advise you as to the amount of child maintenance that the non-resident parent is likely to be asked to pay by the CSA. The system of child maintenance has recently changed. You can find out more by visiting www.cmoptions.org.

    Enquire today and speak to a specialist family solicitor.

    Please call us now on 0113 218 5426 or alternatively complete our contact form.

    Children's best interests

    It is generally thought that it is in a child's best interests if:

    • They are brought up by both parents, whether or not those parents live together.
    • Each parent supports the child's relationship with the other parent in a positive way.
    • The child is clear about arrangements made.
    • Each parent tries to support the child to keep in touch with extended family on both sides, and close family friends.
    • New partners support the arrangements made.
    • The child is not exposed to arguments and conflict.

    Our specialist Family Law solicitor team will help you find the best way forward for you and your family.

    We can help you with family mediation involving children when relationships are breaking down.