When a relationship breaks down it can be difficult for everyone involved. The legal focus is on protecting the rights of the child, which includes concerns for their safety and well-being and their right to have a relationship with both parents.
Whilst the parents may have responsibility for their child (see Parental Responsibility
) if parents cannot agree between themselves arrangements in relation to where a child will live and when the child will see or visit the other parent the Courts may have to be asked to make a decision.
Child contact and residence
The old ideas of child custody and access no longer exist in English law. Instead they have been replaced by new terminology. The Courts now have the power to make the following orders:
- A Residence Order – This says where a child should live. The Courts can, in rare circumstances, make such an order in favour of more than one person, stipulating how long the child should spend with each.
- A Contact Order – This regulates telephone calls, visits, sleep-overs, weekends or holidays with the absent parent.
- A Prohibited Steps Order is called into play when one parent objects to something that the other parent is doing concerning their child. That parent can apply to the court for an order prohibiting the action from taking place i.e. leaving the country.
- The court can consider a specific issue order if parents are unable to agree on a specific aspect of their child’s upbringing.
In all of the above cases, an order must be applied for and granted by the court. A family lawyer will need to be instructed to act on your behalf and prepare the relevant documentation.
For advice or to discuss your options with a qualified family lawyer
call 0800 321 3832.
How the Court decides on Contact and Residence
It is usual to try and keep the children settled in the family home wherever possible to minimise the disruption to their daily lives. Account has to be taken of the accommodation of both parents to ensure the children are in safe, secure and suitable surroundings when they are with their parents. If children do remain in the family home as their main residence with one parent, that parent may also have to prove they can cover the costs of living at that property.
Statement of arrangements for children
When a divorce petition is filed at court, there must be a statement filed at the same time setting out what has been agreed about where the children will live, contact with the absent parent, who will be looking after the children during school holidays, educational arrangements, and details of any special health needs. Provided both parents agree these arrangements, the courts will not normally interfere.
Both parents should put the needs of the children foremost and be able to put their own differences aside to agree where the children should live, etc.
At this early stage, a dedicated family lawyer or one specialising in the Children Act should be consulted. They will be able to help you to reach an agreement wherever possible and give detailed information on the rights and responsibilities of both parents.
For advice on the arrangements for your children on divorce or relationship breakdown call Woolley & Co family law specialists on 0800 321 3832.