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Children and divorce Q&As

Six questions to ask yourself before calling a lawyer

Q. How much contact do I have to allow?

Regular and frequent contact with both parents is normally considered important. There are no strict formulas for how much time a child should spend with each parent. Shared parenting does not imply an equal amount of time. The most important thing to consider is what is in the best interests of your child.

Q. Can I move abroad with my children?

Unless both parents agree you must obtain the permission of the court to take a child to live abroad. If you would like to apply to the courts for this permission this is something Woolley & Co can help with.

Q. Can I prevent my ex-partner moving away with my children?

The Court cannot make orders deciding where your ex will live but it is possible to apply to the court to determine where the child will live. This will involve an application to the court which your solicitor can help with. You can book a detailed case assessment to discuss this with a Woolley & Co lawyer here.

Q. How much does cost to reach an agreement about the children?

You will need to obtain a quote based on your own circumstances. It’s true to say however that if you can reach agreement between yourselves this needn’t cost anything, as there is no need to involve solicitors or the courts.

If you are unable to communicate with your ex-partner negotiation with the help of a solicitor could cost anything from about £500 upwards. To attend mediation can cost anywhere between £200 and £1,000 – and often these costs are shared between both parties.

If you apply formally through the courts for a child arrangements order there are a number of steps in the process and the costs really will depend on whether you can reach an agreement at an early stage or whether the case reaches a final hearing. It is not unusual for there to be two or three hearings before the matter is concluded. To make an initial application costs between £1,000 and £1,500 plus a court fee. If the case proceeds all the way through costs are likely to be at least £7,000.

All of these figures will be subject to VAT. Remember the costs of making an application via the courts are cumulative – so if your case went all the way to a final hearing the costs could be £7,000 – £18,500, or more.

Q. If I have parental responsibility for my child do I automatically have a right to see them?

Although parental responsibility gives you certain legal rights in relation to the upbringing of your child and gives you some rights in terms of seeing them it does not automatically give you the right to contact them when you wish or have them visit or stay with you. If you cannot agree this amicably with your partner you will need to apply for a Child Arrangements Order from the courts.

Q. If I leave will I be allowed to see my children?

The starting point is that a relationship with both parents is desirable, and likely to be in the child’s best interests, unless there have been allegations of, for example, abuse or neglect. If you cannot agree a sensible pattern of contact with your spouse/partner, you can ask the court to step in and make an order. The court will take into account a number of factors, called the “welfare checklist” to decide what is in the child’s best interests in terms of where they will live and spend time. Such factors include the child’s own wishes and feelings and their age. Clearly, these arrangements need to be age appropriate, and if the child is very young, arrangements may be very different than if your child is a teenager.

Q. How much child maintenance will I get?

If you have children who live with you, you will be entitled to receive maintenance for their benefit from the non-resident parent. The amount will depend on the Child Support Agency’s guidelines. You can decide whether to use the CSA or agree a figure privately.

For more details, you may wish to look at the CSA website

Q. If I agree to a divorce from my wife, will she automatically get custody of our children?

No, nothing is automatic in family law. In actual fact there is no such thing as ‘custody’ in legal terms anyway. The law focuses on what is in the best interests of the child and begins from the starting point that in most cases the child should have a relationship with both parents. Where the children live and arrangements for contact with the parent they don’t live with are dealt with by the courts only if parents cannot agree.

The court has the power to award a Child Arrangements Order to secure your rights to contact with your children. We can arrange this for you, call on 0800 321 3832 to discuss your concerns.

Q. Can I take my children out of the country even if my ex objects?

If you have parental responsibility for your child you can take your child abroad for up to 1 month without the need to obtain special agreement by the courts.

Q. Can I stop my children seeing my ex’s new partner?

Probably not. The way family law works is to assume that your child should have contact with both parents and assume they will only bring them into contact with people who are good for them. If your ex gets a new partner then unless there is a really serious risk to the child, a Court would not stop your child being introduced to them any more than they would stop the children seeing a new partner of yours.

Q. Can my ex change my child’s name?

Not without your, or the Court’s, agreement. The Court would only give their agreement if they were persuaded it was very much in the best interests of the child. There are some exceptions especially when the parents were not married at the time of the child’s birth so if in doubt do check, call 0800 321 3832 and speak to one of our family solicitors.

Q. Do I have rights to see my grandchildren?

Unfortunately, grandparents do not have any automatic legal rights in relation to their grandchildren. The legal system recognises the importance of grandparents and offers an opportunity to apply through the court system for a child arrangement order if necessary. Grandparents do not have an automatic right to make that application and you would have to apply to the court for permission to do so. Provided that you could show you have had a meaningful and close relationship with your grandchildren the court is likely to grant permission to apply for the order.

Call Woolley & Co, family lawyers on 0800 321 3832 to arrange a telephone appointment with one of our family law experts, or complete our online form

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