If you are in the process of separating and you are struggling to agree on key issues relating to your children's care, it is important to seek expert advice. Our Children Law Solicitors can help you to achieve workable solutions which are in your children's best interests.
No parent wants their children to be affected by separation any more than is inevitable. Research has found that a large number of separating parents are able to make suitable arrangements for their children.
The difficult cases are those where the parents are unable to agree how the new situation will apply to the children. We can offer advice about how to resolve those issues which can cause disagreement, this can include:
- Whether, if so and how the children are to divide their time between parents
- What will the arrangements be for holiday periods, birthdays and other special occasions
- What are to be the general financial arrangements for the care of the children
- What happens if one parent wants to relocate (in the UK or abroad) with the children
- What school should the children attend
- Whether the children should receive certain medical treatment
- Whether the children should have contact with other family members and if so, when
There are other issues which some parents might find difficult to resolve by agreement. The aim is always to try to arrive at child-focussed solutions. If matters cannot be resolved by agreement then it may be necessary for one parent to make an application to the Court to determine the issues involved.
Will we have to go to court?
We will always endeavour to assist in resolving disputes relating to children by agreement if possible. Parents might try to achieve this through direct discussions, attending mediation or negotiations via solicitors.
However, in circumstances where agreement simply cannot be reached voluntarily between parents, despite perhaps having tried negotiation through solicitors, round-table meetings and/or mediation, court proceedings may unfortunately be unavoidable. This is also the approach which is taken by the Court, even after proceedings have started.
The family justice system recognises the invaluable role of a grandparent in a child's life, and we are able to offer advice on how to preserve all positive extended family relationships for children, acting for wider family members as well as parents.
How does the court resolve issues relating to children?
Where problems arise with arrangements for children, the overriding principle is that it is the interests of the children which are paramount.
The legal starting point is always what is called the 'welfare checklist', which appears in section one of the Children Act 1989. That checklist sets out the factors that have to be considered, which are as follows:-
- The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child;
- The physical, emotional and educational needs of the child;
- The likely effect on the child of any change of circumstances;
- The age, sex, background and characteristics of the child which are relevant;
- Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
- The capability of each parent, and of any other relevant person, of meeting the needs of the child;
- What are to be the general financial arrangements for the care of the children, including the cost of where they will live;
- The powers given to the Court to regulate the arrangements for a child.
Who will make the final decisions?
If a court application is made, then the case will either be determined by a bench of three magistrates, (who will deal with the less serious and more straightforward cases), or a single judge for those cases which are more complex.
In all cases, the Court will receive some level of input from a social worker from the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Services (CAFCASS). The level of involvement CAFCASS will have will depend on the issues involved. The CAFCASS Officer will speak with both parents and sometimes also with the child or children, and offer analysis and advice to the Court about what the outcome of the matter should be.
It is important to emphasise that in making any final decisions, there is no bias in favour of either parent. It is the welfare of the child which is paramount, and all of the relevant circumstances will be taken into account.
For preliminary advice or to arrange a meeting with one of our Family law solicitors, please contact us on 0800 923 0400.
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