When parents separate the most important decisions they will make concern the arrangements for their children. Arrangements as to where the children will live, how much time they will spend with each parent and what arrangements there will be for education, religion and travel have to be considered. Often parents can reach agreement about these important issues but where that is not possible then it may be necessary to seek legal advice and the assistance of the Family Court.
We are a renowned team of children law specialists who can assist you to find a child focused solution. We regularly help parents negotiate a settlement and in the Department also offer an ‘all areas’ mediation service. Where agreement is not possible, or where there are impediments to agreement then we can guide you through the Family Court process, advising and supporting you at every stage.
We can also assist with cases involving the financial support of children also known as ‘maintenance’.
Here are some of the many questions we get asked regularly:
What is Parental Responsibility?
Parental Responsibility (PR) is the right and duty given to a parent (or others- see below) to take major welfare decisions concerning a child. In addition to giving a parent (or holder of PR) the responsibility to ensure a child’s welfare needs are being met it also gives certain rights of decision making (e.g. education, medical treatment etc). Each holder of PR should consult with others who hold PR on all major decisions relating to a child.
Who has Parental Responsibility?
A mother automatically has parental responsibility upon the birth of the child.
A father will have parental responsibility if he is married to the mother or
- Enters into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother
- For children born in Britain after 1 December 2003 the father’s name is on the birth certificate
- By order of the Court
Others can obtain parental responsibility by order of the Court for so long as the order is in force.
What orders can the Court make?
The Children Act 1989, provides the framework for most of the issues relating to children. It is child focussed in that it places the welfare of the specific child or children first or as the “paramount consideration” (s1 CA1989).
In addition to allocating duties to parents, Courts and Local authorities to safeguard children, it, together with its supporting rules and regulations, sets out the types of orders that the Court can make when parents cannot agree the arrangements for their children.
‘Child arrangement’ orders define with whom a child lives and who they see and how regularly. A child should be able to have a quality relationship with both parents unless it is not safe. These orders used to be called “residence” and “contact”.
‘Specific issues’ that can also be decided by the Court may be in relation to education, school, foreign holidays, medical treatment or relocation (within the UK or internationally). These orders are designed to be used where there is a specific matter that parents (or holders of PR) cannot agree.
Prohibited Steps orders are used to protect children in situations where their welfare may be jeopardised such as risk of domestic violence, child abduction, emotional or physical harm. They are designed to prevent harm.
In some circumstances other provisions such as Wardship or the High Court’s “inherent jurisdiction” become applicable, particularly when there are international issues.
My ex- partner is refusing to let me see our child – what can I do?
This is always a difficult and stressful situation, and needs to be handled with care. Different approaches work in different situations, however it is rarely beneficial to the children involved to do nothing. We are able to advise and assist in these difficult circumstances and where agreement becomes impossible will advise as to the right steps to take, which may well involve Court proceedings. We will always strive to work with you for a solution that meets your child’s needs.
What is child abuse?
Sadly there are situations where allegations of abuse are made by one parent against another or by one child against a parent or carer. Cases like this are always difficult and painful. They may involve allegations of physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Sometimes drug and alcohol abuse are involved and on other occasions there may be mental health issues or allegations of fabrication or alienation. Whatever the situation, it is important to take the right steps in a timely manner, and the right legal advice is essential at this time. We have many years of experience in dealing with these difficult situations which have long term consequences and therefore need to be handled carefully.
Can I apply to the Court concerning a child even if I am not a parent?
The simple answer is yes, with the permission of the Court you can apply for orders in relation to a child. You will probably get permission to make the application if you have a strong connection with the child, and your application is not disruptive. If you are looking after a child that is not yours and was not placed with you by a Local Authority for more than a month then you must inform your Local Authority of the position even if you have the permission of the child’s parent(s).
Can I get a passport for my child?
As a person with parental responsibility (PR) it is possible to apply for a passport without the written consent of the others with PR. If you are worried about this then you can contact the passport agency who will inform you if your child has a passport in their name. You can also ask the passport agency to inform you if any application is submitted. This will not prevent the passport agency issuing a passport but they will (for 12 months) inform you if one is applied for and give you the opportunity to prevent this by applying to the Courts.
If you are concerned about child abduction or relocation please contact our specialist team on +44 7935 3522. Alternatively, you can contact us by completing our online contact form