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 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.
The care of your children when you divorce or separate
The old ideas of child custody and access no longer exist in English law. They were initially replaced by the terms residence and contact, to define where a child lived and the contact arrangements with the absent parent. From April 22nd 2014 this changed again to introduce child arrangement orders.
If you are worried about the care of your children when you divorce or separate the important legal issues you need to bear in mind are as follows:
- The care of the child is paramount and the law is concerned to protect their rights. It is assumed that a child should have a relationship with both parents, unless they are at risk of harm.
- There is a presumption of continued parental involvement by both parents. It is worth noting that continued parental involvement does not mean a particular division of time.
- Parents who cannot agree will be required to attend mediation, or at least a meeting designed to find out whether mediation might be suitable to help parents come to an agreement. This is known as a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).
- Parents who are still unable to agree can ask the courts to decide at a court hearing. If this happens the result will be a child arrangements order dealing with living and contact arrangements with both parents.
- 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 and advise you on your position.
For advice on the arrangements for your children on divorce or separation call Woolley & Co family law specialists on 0800 321 3832. Request a copy of our guide Divorce: Who gets ‘custody’? using the form below.