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Disputes About Children Between Their Parents/Family Members

If you are in the process of separating or getting divorced and you have children, you will need to settle the arrangements for their future. Many parents manage this amicably; others need assistance from mediators or solicitors.

Sadly, there are also circumstances in which the assistance of the Courts is required, either to protect children from harm or resolve disputes about their future. Either way, it is important for you to understand the legal framework.

Our experienced and understanding family solicitors can help support you through the process of negotiation and, where necessary, apply to the Court for Child Arrangements Orders and other Court orders, and ensure these orders work as intended. A number of the solicitors in our team have been appointed to the Law Society Children Panel or are Resolution Accredited as specialists in the law relating to children.

We are able to help you with the following applications under the Children Act 1989:

  • Child Arrangements Orders (previous called contact orders/access/residence orders/custody)
  • Parental Responsibility
  • Prohibited steps orders: for example, preventing an ex-partner from taking your child abroad without permission
  • Permission Application to remove a child permanently or temporarily from England and Wales
  • Other applications to the Court: for example specific issue orders concerning schooling and Special Guardianship Orders
  • Child maintenance and support issues
  • Child abduction

Applications under the Children Act 1989

Parental Responsibility

Parental responsibility is shared jointly between all married parents, even after a divorce, so long as the child is under 18. Unmarried fathers can acquire parental responsibility for each child either by:

  1. a parental responsibility agreement with the mother of each child; or
  2. by order of the court; or
  3. if the father’s name is on the birth certificate of the child (for births registered or re-registered post 1 December 2003).

Parental Responsibility means all the rights, duties, powers and responsibilities and authority which by law a parent has in relation to a child and his/her property. Each parent with parental responsibility retains the power to act independently of the other parent (subject to any order made by the court). Non-parents can in certain circumstances acquire parental responsibility for a child.

There are three main orders that the Court can make to resolve disputes about children:

1. Child Arrangements Orders

This is an order which will set out arrangements relating to:

(a) with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact, and
(b) when a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any other person including telephone and letter contact.

Contact may however in some circumstances be limited or supervised, and it is possible in extreme cases for the Court to order that a parent should not see a child at all.

2. Prohibited Steps Orders

Limit when certain parental rights and duties can be exercised for example, preventing a parent in meeting his/her parental responsibility for a child. Once a Prohibited Steps Order is made that parent is prevented from taking that step without the consent of the Court. It can for example be used to prevent a child from being removed from their school, or England and Wales, or from the care and control of a parent/carer. A Prohibited Steps Order can be made against anyone.

3. Specific Issue Orders

Contain directions to resolve a particular issue in dispute in connection with a child. A specific issue order could be obtained where there is a dispute as to the child’s education, determining whether the child can be taken abroad temporarily or permanently, and medical treatment. Specific Issue Orders may be made in conjunction with Child Arrangements Orders or on their own.

The principles the Court will use when deciding cases concerning children:

When making any decision, the court’s paramount consideration is the welfare of the child.

The court will always give the following three principles the highest priority:

  • The child’s welfare is of the paramount importance;
  • The court shall have regard to the general principle that any delay is likely to prejudice the welfare of the child; and
  • The court shall not make an order unless it considers that doing so would be better for the children than making no order at all.

The court will also have regard to:

  • The ascertainable wishes and feeling of the child concerned (considered in the light of the child’s age and understanding);
  • The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs;
  • The likely effect on the child of any change in his/her circumstances;
  • The child’s age, sex, background, and any other characteristic which the court considers relevant;
  • Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
  • How capable each of the child’s parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting the child’s needs;
  • The range of powers available to the court under the Children Act in the proceedings in question.

The court fee to issue an application is £215.

Our Child Dispute Solicitors are backed by nearly four decades of experience. Our legal practice and team of Family Law Solicitors have a strong track record of achieving favourable client outcomes. For expert legal advice use our contact form or call us today.