Looking after the Children:
Child contact, parental and residency orders
When a relationship ends, most people manage to agree between themselves how the children are going to be looked after. It is far better for the children if both parents can agree how this is to work - after all, this is usually going to be affecting the children's daily lives for quite a while so if both parties agree it cuts down on any ill feeling that could crop up.
Unfortunately though, an agreement can't always be reached - in these circumstances we can assist you in attempts to reach an agreement through negotiation, by referring your case to mediation, or making an application to the court.
Taking the case to court
Even if the matter goes to court, in most cases the judges/Magistrates will try to help you to reach an agreement during the court proceedings. If agreement can be reached at the court then the case can end without a court order if it is appropriate to do so.
Before the Court decides on whether an Order is appropriate or not, and the terms of that Order, they will consider the Welfare Checklist as set out in the Children Act 1989. The most important consideration is what is in the children’s best interests and there are a number of factors taken into account when considering this.
A CAFCASS officer can be appointed if there are any welfare concerns. CAFCASS is the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. They will always complete a preliminary recommendation and will obtain any relevant information from the Police or Social Services. In some cases an individual may be allocated to assist the Court in making a decision. They are independent and are looking into what is in the children’s best interests. They will speak with the parents and complete a detailed report with a recommendation to the Court.
To commence the process, one party needs to apply for one or more court orders, and there are a number of orders available:-
Contact Orders basically do what it says on the tin - they allow contact between one party and the child(ren). So it means that the person who the children live with has to allow the other person to have contact with the children at specified times. As an example, if your child lives with your ex-spouse and you can't agree arrangements to see your child, you could apply to court for a Contact Order.
Residence Orders decide who the child(ren) is going to live with - it used to be known as 'custody'. So again as an example if you can't agree with your ex-partner where the child(ren) are going to live, you can apply for a Residence Order.
Specific Issue Orders
These orders can be used to 'fill in the gaps' - i.e. you've agreed most things with your ex but there is one issue you just can't agree on. That is where the Specific Issue order comes in. As an example, if you can't agree which school your child should go to, you can apply for a Specific Issue Order.
Prohibited Steps Orders
This is sort of the opposite of a Specific Issue Order - in that the court orders that one particular cannot do a specific thing (without the court's permission). As an example, you may not want your ex-partner to take your child(ren) abroad. You can apply for a Prohibited Steps Order if you are concerned about this.
Parental Responsibility Orders
These orders are used to give parental rights to someone who hasn't already got them or isn't a parent of that child ( A mother automatically has parental responsibility and doesn't need to apply for it). This could apply to you if :-
- you're the father of a child but weren't married to the child's mother at the time the child was born
- the child was born after 1 December 2003 and you were not registered as the father on the child's birth certificate
- you haven't already made a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother
- you are a step parent
Special Guardianship OrderThis is an Order that grants a higher level of Parental Responsibility to someone who is not a parent.
This is an Order that may be needed if your child/ren is/are removed from your care without your agreement or have not been returned after contact. If there are sufficient grounds you may be able to apply for this type of Order on an emergency basis.
If for any reason Social Services have become involved with your children then you may need to get in touch with our care departmentFor further information please contact our family department.
We offer a first 30 minute FREE consultation and 8:30am and 5pm appointment times.