When a relationship breaks down the most important consideration for parents is the arrangements for their children.
At AS Solicitors we will first try to help you resolve any dispute through negotiation or mediation. Court proceedings may not always be necessary and should be a last resort. Should Court proceedings become necessary we can help prepare your application, statements and arrange for expert reports if necessary.
We specialise in advising and representing parents in all aspects of children law. Call and book an appointment with one of our solicitors either by telephone on 020 8318 4345 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Areas of expertise include:
- Parental Responsibility
- Child Arrangement Orders
- Prohibitive Steps
- Specific Issue
- Residence Orders
- Contact Orders
- Emergency Applications
- Special Guardianship
- Financial Provision for children
- Child Maintenance
- Grandparents Rights
- International or national relocation
We will encourage you to reach agreement where possible considering the possibility of mediation before approaching the Court.
Under The Children and Families Act 2014 it is now a requirement for a person to attend mediation unless certain exemptions apply.
A mediator is a neutral person who listens to both parties in an attempt to help resolve their differences. Although no decision is legally binding it is merely an attempt for parties to reach an agreement.
Although the Court will consider evidence from both parties when making a decision the Courts paramount consideration is the welfare of the child. The Court will consider the following:
The welfare checklist
- the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned in the light of their age and understanding;
- their physical, emotional and educational needs
- the likely effect on the child of any change in circumstances;
- the age, sex, background and any characteristics of his/her which the court considers relevant;
- any harm which he/she has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
- how capable each of his or her parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his or her needs;
- the range of powers available to the court under the Children Act in the proceedings in question.
Some of the orders that the court can be asked to make in relation to children are set out below.
A parent without parental responsibility will not have the legal authority to make decisions in relation to their children.
All those with Parental Responsibility are legally entitled have a say about the upbringing of the child.
In practical terms Parental Responsibility means the power to make important decisions in relation to a child. This can include:
- Determining the religion the child should be brought up with. Where there is a mixed cultural background this should include exposure to the religions of all those with Parental Responsibility until the child can reach an age where he/she can make their own decision on this.
- Determining the child’s education and where the child goes to school.
- Choosing, registering or changing the child’s name.
- Appointing a child’s guardian in the event of the death of a parent.
- Consenting to a child’s operation or certain medical treatment.
- Accessing a child’s medical records.
- Consenting to taking the child abroad for holidays or extended stays.
- Representing the child in legal proceedings.
A Mother of a child automatically has parental responsibility.
A Father will only have parental responsibility automatically if he is married or has been married to the Mother at any time the child was born.
An unmarried Father can obtain parental responsibility if he is named on the child’s birth certificate or by agreement made with the Mother (Parental Responsibility Agreement) or by Court Order (Parental Responsibility Order)
If a mother wishes to oppose a Parental Responsibility Order she will be given a chance to put forward her reasons why she has refused to allow the Parental Responsibility and why she does not think that the courts should make the order. It is then left to the court to make a decision as to whether or not it will make the Parental Responsibility Order.
Parental responsibility is not automatically granted to people who are not parents, even if in reality, they care for and are responsible for the child on a day-to-day basis. They may obtain Parental Responsibility for the child:
- by being appointed as a guardian to care for the child if those with Parental Responsibility for the child have died;
- by obtaining a Child Arrangements Order from the court which requires that the child lives with that person;
- by becoming the child’s special guardian; or
- by adopting the child.
- A step-parent may make an agreement to obtain Parental Responsibility for his or her step-child providing all those with Parental Responsibility agree. The step parent must be married to or be in a civil partnership with the mother or father to enter this agreement. This is similar to the Parental Responsibility Agreement and it will not take Parental Responsibility away from those who already have it. A step-parent could also apply for a Step Parental Responsibility Order if they are married to or in a civil partnership with the mother or father.
Parental Responsibility terminates:
- when a young person reaches the age of 18;
- when a holder of a Parental Responsibility dies;
- when a child or young person is adopted;
- where Parental Responsibility has been obtained by a Residence Order (prior to 22.04.2014 or a Child Arrangements Order) and that Residence Order has been discharged or has expired; (if a father acquired Parental Responsibility via a Residence Order or Child Arrangements Order, he will not lose it on its expiry, unless a specific order discharges it).
- where Parental Responsibility has been granted to a second female partner or step-parent through a Parental Responsibility Agreement or a Parental Responsibility Order it can only be terminated through a court order.
Where Parental Responsibility has been granted to an unmarried father under a Parental Responsibility Order, a Parental Responsibility Agreement, or registration on the child’s birth certificate, a child or any other person with Parental Responsibility can make an application to the court to have it terminated. In order for a child to make such an application, they will need to acquire leave (permission from the court) first.
Only when adoption takes place, can a mother lose her Parental Responsibility.
Child Arrangement Orders
There is no set rule as to how much time a child should spend with each parent. This will usually be agreed between the parties themselves. Should this prove difficult a Child Arrangement Order may become necessary.
Child Arrangement Orders have replaced the old ‘residence’ and ‘contact’ Orders and have been introduced by The Children and Families Act 2014 to deal with the arrangements as to with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact.
Residence is a term used to describe where the child will live for the majority of their time. The parent who has the child live with them most of the time is called the resident parent and the other parent is called the non-resident parent. When the child spends equal time with both parents, for example, one week with one parent, another week with the other, then the parents are said to have shared residence.
Contact between a parent and child can be direct (face-to-face), which can include overnight contact and also indirect, such as telephone conversations, e-mails, letters and gifts.
The Court will presume that the involvement of both parents in the child’s best interest.
In cases where domestic violence has occurred or there is risk of abduction contact can still be granted between the child and parent at a ‘contact centre’. This will eliminate any harm or risk.
Prohibited Steps Order
This is an order preventing a person from taking a particular action.
The order can be made on its own or in conjunction with a other orders such as a residence or contact order.
For example, an order may prohibit a parent from taking the child to a specific location, stopping one parent changing the child’s surname, stopping a parent from removing the child from a particular location.
Specific Issues Order
These Orders are made where a dispute arises about a question of Parental Responsibility and will grant permission for the particular course of action in a dispute to be taken. For example:
- Which school a child should attend
- Whether the child should have particular course of treatment such as a vaccination or operation
- In which religious rites the child should participate, for example, circumcision or confirmation
- Whether the child should temporarily leave the UK for a holiday.
Emergency Applications – Ex-parte
An emergency application is known as ‘application without notice’. This simply means that an application for an Order can be made to the Court without the need of the other party being notified. There must be a genuine cause for an emergency application.
An Interim Order will usually be granted by the Judge and the matter listed for a second hearing. The second hearing allows the other party to be given the opportunity to defend and out forward their side of events.
The Court may also decide that the issue is not an emergency and it will not grant any order without the other party being present. In this situation the Court will stay the hearing allowing only a short delay so that the other party can attend if they wish.
Special Guardianship is an order made by the Family Court that places a child or young person to live with someone other than their parent(s) on a long-term basis.
Special Guardianship Order will:
- Secure the child’s or young person’s long-term placement
- Grant Parental Responsibility to the Special Guardian(s)
- Maintain links with the child’s or young person’s birth parent(s)
- Enable the special guardian to have day-to-day control and to exercise their Parental Responsibility to the exclusion of all others with Parental Responsibility except another Special Guardian
A person wishing to apply for a Special Guardianship Order will be required to inform Children’s Services in writing of their intention to apply 3 months before submitting their application to the Court. The Local Authority will write a report for the court determining whether they believe the person to be a suitable Special Guardian.
Please contact us on 020 8318 4345 or email email@example.com to find out how we can help you.
Children Law Solicitors in South East London, Lewisham, Lee Green, Hither Green, Grove Park, Greenwich, Blackheath, Kidbrooke, Eltham.