A Guide for Separating Parents

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In situations where parents separate, there may be certain decisions regarding a child’s upbringing that require attention. This guide provides advice for parents going through separation and addresses common queries.

Given the complexity of such matters, it’s important to recognise that your circumstances are unique. Therefore, seeking legal advice from a qualified solicitor is recommended. A child arrangement solicitor will usually be an expert in family and child law and will be able to assist with these matters to ensure that your child’s best interests are represented.

One of the most significant matters to address when parents separate is determining the arrangements for their children. This encompasses decisions such as where the child lives, the frequency of visitation with the other parent, child support, and schooling.

Flexibility in child arrangements is possible to cater to the child’s needs. For instance, the child may reside with one parent while regularly visiting the other parent, or they may live with both parents in a shared custody arrangement, such as alternating weeks.

If parents communicate with each other to reach a parenting plan that prioritises the child’s best interests, it will help to prevent any complications that could arise in the future.

What if we cannot reach an agreement on child arrangements?

In the event that you are unable to come to an agreement with the other parent regarding child arrangements, seeking assistance may be required. It is advisable to consult a family law solicitor or gather information from other resources to obtain legal advice.

Another option is to consider mediation as a means to reach a mutually agreed upon solution. During mediation, a skilled mediator facilitates discussions between both parties to resolve any disputed issues. It important to note that mediation is not suitable for individuals who have experienced domestic violence.

If mediation does not work, there are orders that the court can make.

Child Arrangement Orders

A child arrangement order is a legally binding document which will determine:

  • where the child or children will live
  • which family members the child will spend time with
  • when contact with parents will take place
  • what other types of contact will take place, and when they will take place until the child is 16 years old

Child Arrangement Orders can be made through mediation, or you can apply to the Courts for a Child Arrangement Order if an agreement cannot be reached. If separated parents or families cannot agree to child care arrangements, it may be necessary to let the court decide the arrangements that should be out in place

These types of orders are made by the court to meet the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs. Child Arrangement Order terms can be flexible to meet individual circumstances. They can help both parents to share a significant role in their child or children’s’ lives.

A guide for separating parents: Specific issues order

A Specific Issue Order (SIO) is made when there is a dispute between parents on a specific issue and a decision cannot be reached between parents. Some of the issues that may be resolved using this type of order may include decisions on medical treatment, religion and where the child attends school.

Prohibited steps order

A Prohibited Steps Order may be used by someone who has parental responsibility for the child to stop another parent from making certain choices or decisions about the upbringing of the child. This type of order may be used to stop the relocation of a child’s residence, removing the child from school or removing the child from the care of the other parent.

What if my case goes to court?

If an agreement cannot be reached through negotiation or mediation regarding child contact, it will be necessary to make an application to the Court to obtain a Child Arrangement Order. The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) will instruct a CAFCASS officer to provide a report and make recommendations on the best possible options for contact. The court will also have to consider a number of factors, such as:

  • What decision would be in the best interests of the child
  • Which child arrangements will meet the welfare needs of the child
  • Whether child arrangements may have an impact on the child’s education
  • Whether there would be any risk of neglect or harm to the child in allowing the proposed child arrangements

The Court will need to hear from those involved in the case, and upon hearing the application, they will decide upon how contact should be put in place using a Child Arrangement Order.

How does the court make decisions about children?

The welfare of a child is the court’s primary consideration when making any decision related to them. An order will only be made if it is deemed beneficial for the child. As such, if there is no dispute about a child living with one parent, the court will generally not make an order to confirm it.

The court takes into account all relevant circumstances, including the child’s wishes, physical, emotional, and educational needs, the likely impact of any changes in circumstances, their age, background, any relevant characteristics, and any harm or potential harm they may have suffered. The court also considers the abilities of both parents to meet the child’s needs and the range of orders available to them.

It is generally presumed that a child benefits from having both parents involved in their life unless there are good reasons to the contrary. This involvement may be direct or indirect, such as through regular contact visits or correspondence.

A guide for separating parents: What is child maintenance?

Child maintenance, also known as child support, refers to the financial support provided by one parent or guardian to another to help meet the costs of raising a child. It is typically paid by the parent who does not have day-to-day care of the child to the parent or guardian who does.

The purpose of child maintenance is to ensure that children are provided with the basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, and shelter, as well as other expenses related to their care and upbringing, such as education and healthcare costs. Child maintenance can also help ensure that both parents share the financial responsibility for raising their children, even if they are no longer in a relationship.

In England and Wales, payment of child maintenance is usually based on a formula that takes into account the income and living arrangements of both parents, as well as the number of children being supported. The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) is a government agency that can assist parents in calculating and collecting child maintenance payments.

How much does a child arrangement solicitor cost?

You will be required to pay the costs of your solicitor plus any court fees. The costs of your solicitor will depend on the panel firm handling your case. Most firms on our panel offer a transparent fee structure on a fixed fee basis, or on a pay as you go rate.

All fees will be discussed with you by your appointed solicitor before you agree to proceed with your child arrangement case. Legal Aid may be available to parties who have suffered domestic abuse.

How can a firm from Expert family law’s panel of solicitors help me?

We understand that disputes involving children and their care can be incredibly complex and sensitive. The solicitors on our panel can provide you with the best advice and assistance on resolving child contact disputes and obtaining a specific order from the Court if the dispute cannot be resolved through negotiation or mediation.

As well as assisting with child arrangements, our panel of family law solicitors can also advise and assist on the process of separation or divorce and the division of assets following the breakdown of a marriage or civil partnership (ancillary relief).

We ensure that the family law solicitors on our panel have the skills and experience required to assist on your legal case. We can assure you that your case will be dealt with in a compassionate and understanding manner.

Get in touch today using the form at the top of the page to find out if a child arrangement solicitor from our panel could help on your case.

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