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