If you are looking for help with child arrangements our specialist solicitors can help you.
In addition to office meetings, we offer remote meetings by telephone or video conferencing if required.
Relationship breakdowns can be an emotional time for most adults, but even more so for any children of the family. It is essential that any decisions being made by the parents take into consideration the needs of the children as a priority.
If you are going through a separation it is important for you to reach a clear agreement regarding the children with the other parent or relatives. If this cannot be done directly between you we are able to assist in negotiations or referrals to an independent mediator to attempt to settle any disputes and reach an amicable agreement that is in the best interests of the children.
If you are a relative, grandparent or stepparent you may also be entitled to seek for arrangements to be put in place for you to see the children if no agreement can be reached with the parents and our expert legal team can assist you with this.
Child Arrangement Orders (Contact and Residence)
A child arrangement order (previously known as a contact order or a residence order) can outline where and with whom children live (residence) as well as when and how often the children can see a parent or relative (contact). Such an order can also outline shared living arrangements so that both parents or another adult has shared care for the children.
After a relationship breakdown, one parent may choose to relocate abroad with the children, whether for employment, lifestyle or family support reasons. This is not always a straightforward process because a parent or guardian cannot simply move or travel abroad with the children unless all holders of parental responsibility provide their explicit consent.
If this is not obtained the parent or guardian intending on relocating will need to apply to court for an order permitting the relocation. There are many factors taken into account by the court when making such a decision and it must be in the best interests of the children.
Removing children from the UK without the consent of all people with parental responsibility is a criminal offence and is considered child abduction and therefore it is vital to agree with the relocation or obtain a court order to leave the country.
Parental responsibility includes all rights and obligations a parent has towards the children. If you have parental responsibility you will be entitled to be consulted and for your consent to be obtained when any major decisions regarding the children's upbringing are being made, for example, health decisions, schools and education, religion and travel abroad.
Parents who are married automatically have parental responsibility. Unmarried father's who are registered on the birth certificate for children born from 1 December 2003 will also automatically have parental responsibility.
Fathers who are not married and not named on the birth certificate, as well as stepfathers and other relatives are entitled to seek for there to be either a parental responsibility agreement with the mother or a parental responsibility order made by the Court.
You will also automatically have parental responsibility if you have a child arrangement order (or a residence order) specifying that a child or children are to live with you.
Prohibited Steps Order
If there is a major concern regarding the upbringing of a child, or about certain decisions which are being made by a parent which are opposed, an application can be made for a court to issue an order preventing a certain thing from happening.
Such issues would include travel abroad, relocating within the UK, changing a child's name or removal of a child from the care of a person.
Specific Issue Order
If parents or guardians cannot agree on major decisions regarding a child, such as health issues, education choices, religion an application will need to be pursued for a court to make a decision on the dispute.
Again such issues would include relocating abroad or within the UK, major medical treatment, change of a child's name and any other big decision that is likely to impact a child's upbringing.
Travel Abroad & Holidays
A further consideration that needs to be given by separated parents is holidays abroad. Legally, a parent travelling abroad with a child will need to obtain the explicit consent of all holders of parental responsibility, otherwise, a criminal offence for child abduction may be committed. Parents who have a child arrangement order for a child to live with them (or a residence order) are legally allowed to take a child out of the UK for up to one month without the need for consent.
What We Can Do
Given the complexities and sensitive nature of children disputes, it is always essential to seek advice and representation from a qualified and accredited solicitor to ensure that you are fully aware of your rights and legal options.
We have extensive experience in dealing with all areas of Children Law. We are members of Resolution and hold Law Society Family Law Advanced Panel Accreditation which demonstrates our knowledge, skill and expertise in this area of law.
Our Past Cases
Below are some children dispute cases we have conducted in the past:
Settling a lengthy and contested divorce and child arrangement order matter for a relative of a prominent British politician
Agreeing to a consent order for a child arrangement order further to a relocation of the mother
Return of a child to a London borough after a mother had fled with no notice to the father and thereafter for residency of the child to change in the father's favour
Obtaining an order for names of children to be changed back to original registration after mother had them formally changed without father's permission
What We Offer You
Out of Hours
Frequently Asked Questions
I am a father, do I have a right to see my child?
Do I have parental responsibility for my child?
What is parental responsibility?
Parental responsibility includes all rights and obligations a parent has towards the children. If you have parental responsibility you will be entitled to be consulted and for your consent to be obtained when any major decisions regarding the children's upbringing is being made, for example health decisions, schools and education, religion and travel abroad.
I am a grandparent. Do I have a right to see my grandchild?
I am having a disagreement with my ex-partner about our child. Do I need to apply to the court straight away?
Not at all. There are a lot of methods for dealing with matters outside of court and court proceedings really should be considered a last resort. Each case is different but generally if you and your partner have tried to reach agreement but can’t, then you may need to consider options such as Mediation; Arbitration or Collaborative Law. Each option has its good points and its drawbacks but they are also all a lot quicker than court and may be a better solution for you and your family then court proceedings.
I have concerns about the other parent. What can I do?
Good question. When considering these issues, the options vary depending on the concerns. If they are concerns about the other parent’s parenting style or general disagreements about how your child should be raised, then when applying to the court you should also complete a supplemental form which will allow you to outline the concerns that you have. This will be considered by the court and Cafcass when they receive the paperwork and allow them to consider how best to allocate and deal with your case. If however the matter is very urgent, such as a credible threat to remove a child from the UK, then you will need to make this clear in the court forms and seek an urgent hearing from the court.
I’ve heard of a Special Guardianship Order. What is that and how do I apply?
A Special Guardianship Order (SGO) is a court order that gives ‘enhanced’ parental responsibility to someone who is caring for a child who does not otherwise have parental responsibility. So if you are a parent, you can not apply for this order. If however you are someone who has been looking after a child, either because Children’s Services or even the child’s parents have asked you to do so, then you may be able to apply for this order. It will give you parental responsibility and allow you to make decisions for that child as necessary.
Will I see my children after the first hearing?
Sadly, not always.
Is Legal Aid available for a Special Guardianship Order?
Yes! You will still need to satisfy the general Legal Aid requirements regarding your income or capital as well as have the required evidence regarding either domestic abuse or child abuse but Legal Aid is available for an SGO. Speak to a solicitor to find out if you are eligible or not.
All other methods haven’t been successful, how do I apply to court?
There are two main ways of doing this. One is to head to the Ministry of Justice website and find the C100 form. You can either print this off and complete it or you can fill it in online and then print it. Alternatively, you are also able to apply online and there is a shortened form for this. Please remember however that you whichever method you choose, you will need to satisfy the court that mediation has been attempted and has not been successful; that mediation is not appropriate in the case e.g. due to domestic abuse or that because the matter is urgent, there is insufficient time to attempt mediation.
Court forms can be confusing and overwhelming, and you need to ensure that they are completed with the child's best interests in mind. Therefore obtaining legal advice before you apply to court is always helpful.
We are not in agreement over arrangements for our child, what can I do?
We will offer advice about how you can promote or propose arrangements so that your child can continue to have a relationship with both of you.
If you have concerns about the other parent having arrangements, then we can discuss and give advice on the options such as supervised or supported arrangements.
Who are CAFCASS and why are they involved in my matter?
Children and Family Court Advisory Support Services (CAFCASS) are allocated to cases involving a parental dispute that have reached the court.
Their role is to look after the interests of children involved in family court proceedings. Initially, this will involve undertaking background checks on the person applying to court, as well as the other parties and the children. They will also undertake a telephone interview with the parties before the first hearing in order to prepare a safeguarding letter for the court which will outline recommendations about the application.
After the initial hearing, the court can ask CAFCASS to undertake further detailed assessments to provide a final recommendation that the court can use when making a decision regarding the applicaiton.
The other parent does not contribute financially towards the child, what can I do?
Anyone with parental responsibility for a child has a duty to provide financially.
For separated parents, this usually means that the parent who the child is not living with the should contribute financially to the child's care and upbringing.
The Child Maintenance Service usually deals with child maintenance.
If you are the main carer of a child, you can make an application to the Child Maintenance Service to require a parent who does not live with the child to pay regular maintenance.
As a starting point, maintenance is calculated based on the non-resident parent's gross taxable income and the amount of overnight stays the child has with the non-resident parent.