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Children & Divorce

Our expert solicitors will advise you on your rights and responsibilities in maintaining a relationship with your children.

If your relationship has broken down, there will often be disagreements regarding the amount of time you and your former partner have with your children.

If you are unable to reach an agreement with your former partner on the time you spend with your children, the courts have a wide range of powers to make these decisions for your family.

The court can make various orders regarding children in a divorce, which include:

  • Child Arrangement Orders. The courts can decide which parent the children will live with and how much time they will spend with the parent who they do not live with. This can also determine what other types of contact takes place and when, such as phone calls.
  • Prohibited Steps Orders. This order will prevent a parent from carrying out specific events, such as removing the children from the jurisdiction of England and Wales without the other parent’s consent.
  • Specific Issue Orders. This can assist the parents when they cannot come to an agreement about the child’s upbringing. This can include factors such as religion, education, diets, medical treatments or holidays. This can also include who your child spends other time with, such as school holidays, religious holidays and birthdays.

At Specters, we encourage parents to reach an amicable decision outside of court, and will assist you in mediating these matters. We believe that the welfare of your child or children should be the most important factor, as any orders that the courts will make will be made in their bests interests. We encourage parents to attempt to agree on a parenting agreement prior to taking matters to court.

Parenting agreements

A parenting agreement or plan is a document signed by both parents which stipulates the ground rules on how each party will parent apart. This agreement can agree anything you both feel is relevant to the upbringing of your children, from religious beliefs, to education, to dietary requirements. It also confirms any child arrangements you have agreed.

We encourage all parents to make this agreement legally binding by way of a consent order, which is a legal document signed by both parties and filed with the courts. A judge will then approve your agreement, unless they feel that it is not in the best interests of your child.

If you have any child issues, our specialist family solicitors can help you. We offer competitive rates to deal with your matter. You may be eligible for our free initial 30 minute advice as well as a second 30 minutes for £50.

To get in touch with the Specters team, submit an enquiry below or call us on 0300 303 3629.

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Children in Family & Divorce Matters FAQs

What is parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility means the legal rights, powers duties and responsibilities that a parent has for a child and the child’s property. A person with parental responsibility has the legal rights to about the child’s upbringing such as:

  • The child’s name
  • Where a child lives
  • Whether the child has certain medical treatments
  • The child’s religion
  • How and where the child is educated

These decisions must be agreed with anyone else who has parental responsibility.

Who has parental responsibility?

The following people have automatic parental responsibility:

  • All birth mothers;
  • Fathers married to mothers at the time the child is born
  • Fathers who are not married to the birth mother, but are registered on the birth certificate
  • Partners of the mother who are registered as the legal parent on the child’s birth certificate

What happens if we cannot agree about our children?

If you are unable to agree arrangements for your children with the other parent, it is vital that you seek legal assistance.

It is vital in the first instance to attend mediation to attempt to resolve your differences. Mediation is a process where both parents discuss issues in dispute with the assistance of a mediator in an attempt to reach an agreement without going to court. If you are still not able to reach an agreement, it may necessary to make an application to the court.

What is a child arrangements order?

A child arrangements order is an order setting out the following:

  1. Who the children will live with and when
  2. Who the children will spend time with, or have contact with and when

The Court may order that a child lives with one parent or both parents and specify when the child lives with each parent.

If the child lives with one parent, the Court may order when the child is to have contact with the other parent. Decisions over contact can be made by a judge and the following arrangements can be made:

  • Direct contact-this is face to face contact with the child
  • Indirect contact- letters, cards and gifts
  • Supervised contact- This is contact which is supervised by a suitable third party or at a contact centre

The Court can also add conditions and directions to a child arrangements order. This includes not taking a child to a specific place or taking certain parenting courses.

If a parent fails to comply with a child arrangements order, the court can take enforcement action against them, and in very exceptional circumstances, can imprison a parent for failing to comply with the order. If you believe that you have a good reason for not complying with a child arrangements order, you may apply to the court to have the order varied.

What is a specific issues order?

A specific issues order is an order the court can make when two parents cannot agree about an important decision in the child’s upbringing. This includes:

  • The child’s name or surname
  • The child’s religion
  • The child’s education including which school the child attends
  • The child’s health

The Courts are not likely to be involved in less important decisions about the way you bring up your child.

My partner has threatened to kipnap our child. What can I do?

It is advisable that you obtain a prohibited steps order as soon as possible. A prohibited steps order is a court order which forbids a parent from taking a certain action in relation to the child. This includes:

  • Removing your child from your care;
  • Taking the child abroad
  • Removing your child from school
  • Bringing your child into contact with certain people
  • Changing the child’s surname

The Court has the powers to make these orders without the other parent being present in the case of an emergency.