Resolving Issues Relating To Children
When a relationship breaks down, many couples are able to agree where their children will live and how their time should be divided. For some, however, this can be one of the most difficult and upsetting issues between them. At Hall Brown we try to never lose sight of the fact that the child’s bests interests are paramount and that in many cases the parents will have to have some form of co-parenting relationship for many years to come.
We encourage clients to consider entering into direct discussion with the other parent, which is also the position of the courts. Where this is not possible, mediation or family therapy may be used. We are also able to provide a collaborative lawyer if that route is right for the couple.
If this is not suitable, or it fails as a course of action, then there are various remedies that the court can offer.
A parent with Parental Responsibility is automatically entitled to have input and a ‘say’ in respect of the headline areas of their child’s life. For example, these include where and how a child is educated, what their religion will be and how and whether they should be medically treated.
If a child’s parents are married when the child is born then both parents automatically acquire parental responsibility. If the parents are not married it is more complicated for the father. Since December 2003, a father who is registered on the birth certificate automatically acquires parental responsibility. If the child is born before December 2003 (or after 2003 and the father is not registered on the birth certificate) it is necessary for there to be a formal agreement with the mother or a court order in order to acquire parental responsibility.
Child arrangements order
If you are not able to agree where your child or children should live or how their time should be divided, the court can make an order deciding both.
The process usually involves a short hearing to understand the issues and encourage parents to reach an agreement. At the hearing there is often a court appointed social worker (known as a CAFCASS officer) in attendance to assist with the discussion process. If agreement is not reached then the court makes various directions (legal steps that need to be followed which can include, for example a statement from both parents) and the case is set down for a final hearing for a judge to decide the matter once those various steps have been implemented.
This process can be upsetting and stressful and Hall Brown have years of experience and expertise helping, supporting and guiding people through these difficult steps.
Sometimes, even if parents can agree where their child or children should live they are simply unable to agree about a specific issue in a child’s life. Sometimes this can be as simple (but significant) as what school a child should attend. In others it can be more complicated such as whether a child should be subjected to a medical procedure with an uncertain outcome.
As with questions about where a child should live, the court can be asked to decide these issues. Usually detailed evidence is required, an area which Hall Brown has extensive experience in.
Taking children out of the country
Many parents think that they are free to take children out of the country without the permission of the other parent. This is not the case and in many instances you may be committing a criminal offence if you do.
Before a child is taken abroad even for a short period, if there is not permission from the other parent it is essential that independent legal advice is taken.
If removing the child for a long period of time and the other parent does not agree, it is necessary to apply for what is known as ‘leave to remove’ i.e permission from the court to do so. These are complicated cases all of which turn on their own facts.
If, conversely, your child has been taken out of the country without your permission (or there is a risk that he or she will be) it may be that the child has been or will be abducted. If so, it is absolutely essential that you urgently seek advice. Our expertise includes putting in place safeguards to prevent or complicate the removal through to methods of forcing the return of the child from another country.