When you separate from each other, you both continue to be parents. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the process of ending your marriage or relationship does not stop you from being able to co-operate and make decisions about what is best for your children.
A constructive approach through the separation will lay the best foundations for the children to feel settled with the new family circumstances. We understand the importance of putting children’s interests first, with an approach that works in the long run for every member of the family.
Family law covers a lot of different subject areas, but none more important than disputes involving children and their wellbeing. Disputes involving children usually happen simultaneously with a relationship breakdown or divorce when emotions are running high. But sometimes parents need help to resolve an ongoing family situation. Some of the issues regarding children that you may need to decide include:
- where the children are going to live
- which school the children will attend
- what family or friends they can see and visit
- if it is possible to take the children outside the UK for holidays or to live
- what medical treatment they should receive
- how they will be raised, for example, religion, vegetarian, etc
- their surname
These days, you are relatively free to come to whatever arrangements are going to work best for the family, provided all parties agree to those arrangements and that they are in the best interests of the child. If a child’s safety is at issue, then a court order needs to be applied for straight away.
Who has parental responsibility?
Parental responsibility is a legal right and means you have the right to participate in decision making regarding your child or children and to receive information about them. All mothers and those fathers named on the birth certificate, whether or not they are married, automatically have parental responsibility. A father who is not named on the birth certificate may apply for parental responsibility and either the mother or court will normally grant it. Adoptive parents have the same legal responsibility as biological parents but foster parents and step-parents do not.
What if we cannot agree?
If you cannot agree on arrangements for your children, you can ask the court to decide the matter. We will advise you on the best way of doing this, without letting matters relating to children get tangled up in any financial disputes.
In our experience mediation sometimes assists both parents to understand the problems and to resolve these difficulties. Mediation is less expensive than going to court and can help you find a solution to the dispute quicker and more amicably than getting the court involved.
If agreement seems impossible you can apply to the court to make a child arrangements order, financial order, or a specific issue or prohibited steps order. An experienced lawyer can help you achieve long-term solutions or alternatively guide you through the mediation or court process where necessary; or draw up an agreement that you have reached yourselves outside of either of these options.
What about adopted or step-children or where there are allegations of abuse?
All disputes involving children need to be treated sensitively but none more so than allegations of child abuse or where the children are not residing with their natural parent. Some of the most challenging disputes may involve social services and in situations where a child’s safety is at risk you will need legal advice that results in an immediate court order to protect the child.
The paramount concern of the court in any dispute involving children is safeguarding the welfare of the children. Whatever your role in relation to the children, we can help to ensure that their welfare is paramount, and your rights are protected.
Our sensitive, professional approach to children’s cases has helped many families in the UK and abroad to achieve the very best outcome for the whole family. You know your children, and so you will be best able to consider the effects of your separation on them and together devise the most suitable living arrangements.
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