This is one of the more emotionally difficult areas of law to deal with. It’s important for parents to understand that the Courts want both parents to have an equal amount of time with their child regardless of their gender. Ultimately, the status quo is what endures to try and provide the child with a stability that is often snatched from children when their parents separate. The Courts now also are understanding the difficulties parents face when there is domestic violence and will extend their protection of a parent to the child to eliminate the risk of the violence (inclusive of coercive control) being extended to the child.
There are several applications that can be made in relation to children. Unless there is an emergency i.e. there is a risk of a child being taken from the UK to a country where they won’t be returned, or there is a history of domestic violence then any application in relation to children must be preceded by mediation.
1. Child Arrangements Order
- This is a Court order detailing what time a child spends with their parent and where that child lives.
It’s used for applications to decide where a child should live i.e. if a parent wants to move to a different part of the UK or to move to a different country altogether.
2. Specific Issue
- A Specific Issue can relate to what school a child attends, whether he is circumcised or for a parent to apply to have a holiday with their child.
- Parents require permission from the other parent to travel outside of the UK for any amount of time. If they do not have the necessary permissions and the non-travelling parent reports the matter to the police, the travelling parent will be considered as an abductor. It is important to have either the other parent’s agreement or an Order from the Court granting permission to travel.
Once a Child Arrangements Order is in place, the parent with whom the child lives only can travel for up to 28 days without the permission of the non-travelling parent. Anything longer than 28 days will require the permission of the non-travelling parent or the Court. Unless stated in the Order, the non-travelling parent will require the agreement of the other parent to take the child on holiday.
3. Prohibited Steps
This application will prevent a parent from doing something such as taking them out of the UK if there is a risk that the parent will not return to the UK.
4. Parental Responsibility
- This is all the duties and responsibilities and powers that a parent has for a child. A (birth) mother automatically has parental responsibility. A (biological) father will only have parental responsibility if they are married to the mother and/or named on the birth certificate.
LGBTQ parents will need to have a Parental Order in place to become a legal parent with parental responsibility. The Parental Order will terminate the birth parents rights and transfer parentage to the people named in the Order.
- This is an application made for non-parents to have parental responsibility for a child.
- Special Guardianship is an application that not only gives residence of a child to the applicant, but allows that applicant to make decisions in the absence of those parents whether deceased or incapable for whatever reason. It is an alternative to adoption as it allows the child to keep their birth parents and does not terminate their ties.
Once these applications are made, there are usually at least three hearings:
A First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment
This is where the Court will give directions, a set of actions for the parents to meet such as statements, obtain reports (police and medical if necessary) and for either a CAFCASS officer (Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service) or Children’s Services prepare a report.
Dispute Resolution Hearing
This hearing is akin to a Court based mediation, to see if an agreement can be reached between the parents. If an agreement cannot be reached, then the matter progresses to a Final Hearing. Directions will be given for parents to provide a written statement and an updated report will be provided by CAFCASS or Children’s Services.
Where the Court makes a final decision. It is still possible to negotiate at this stage, if there is room for manoeuvre. A Final Order will be made and the parties will not return to Court unless there is a direction for a review or enforcement needs to take place if one parent is not complying with the terms of the Order.
If you can resolve this without attending Court, do so at mediation. It is far less emotionally taxing and financially burdensome.
We can draw up Orders by consent that reflect your agreement in mediation or negotiate for you. We can also write parenting agreements for you that set out what you want to do in various situations between you and the other parent. Any agreement must be child-focused and in their interests. It is always in a child’s best interests to have a fulfilling and loving relationship with both their parents. We are ready to help to reach that goal.