Arrangements for Children

The family law team at Judge & Priestley understand the need for all parents to make the process as easy as possible for any children involved.

We also recognise that there may be difficulties agreeing on how the children should be cared for post separation, and we are here to provide you with advice on the most appropriate arrangements for your children, always putting the child’s best interest as paramount.  

In the event that everyone with parental responsibility for a child can agree on who the child(ren) should be living, then there is a “no order principle”. This means that if the parents are in agreement, there is no need for them to make an application to the court or obtain a court order. It is recommended however that the parents enter into a parenting plan dealing with the future arrangements for the children following a separation, to ensure there is clarity as to what the plan will be. This parenting plan will also be taken into account by the court in the event that court proceedings are required in the future.

There is a misconception that the law favours mothers over fathers in determining care arrangements for the children after a relationship breakdown. The reality is that the arrangements that work in the children's best interests will always depend on the particular circumstances of each case. The law is very much in favour of children having and maintaining a strong relationship with each of their parents wherever possible and guarding against situations where one parent's position amounts in reality only to their wanting to assume a preferred status compared to the other.

There are many factors that need to be considered, and different weight is given to each factor depending on the overall circumstances. The family law team at Judge & Priestley are well equipped to advise you as to your position and offer you the most effective and cost-efficient course of action.  

If you need to speak to a solicitor regarding your children, then please call us in complete confidence on 020 8290 0333 (Bromley or Blackheath offices) or  020 658 3922 (Beckenham) to make an appointment.

How does the court decide the arrangements for the children?

Parents with shared responsibility for the children often negotiate an arrangement taking into account the best interests of the children. Problems arise when the best interests of the children are pushed to one side, and negotiations are founded on what each parent would want it to happen. 

Many parents can agree the arrangements for the children but other parents are assisted by attending mediation or by negotiations through solicitors.  In some cases, it may be necessary to make an application to the Court.

The Court can make a number of orders:-

  • Child Arrangements Order.  Replacing the old Residence and Contact Orders, these orders are what are commonly referred to us child custody or access orders online or in American TV dramas.  These orders decide who a child is to live with and who they will spend time with and when.
  • Prohibited Steps Order.  This prevents something such as taking a child abroad, removing a child from the care of one parent, or from school.
  • Specific Issue Order.  This deals with specific issue such as the school a child should go to, whether a child should be given medical attention or not or whether they should be brought up in a particular way.

In granting any of the above orders, the Court will take into account:

  • The child’s age and background, including the child’s current routine and status quo;
  • The child’s views, and specific weight will be given depending on the child’s age and maturity;
  • The child’s needs, including emotional, physical, and/or mental. 
  • The effect of change on the child’s life
  • Any risk of harm to the child
  • Each parent’s capability in meeting the child’s needs

No factor is decisive, and the courts have discretion as to how much weight each factor bears on the decision. 

We can advise you as to your position whether it is in relation to negotiation, mediation or where court proceedings become necessary. 

Emergency Applications

In some instances, emergency applications have to be made in respect of children. For instance, if the children have been taken away from home without warning or if you believe that the children are at real risk of harm.

If there is a real threat that the children might be removed from the country by one parent without the other parent’s consent an application can be made to the Court for a prohibited steps order to prevent their removal and a location order sought in the event that the children’s whereabouts are not known. It is essential in such cases that you instruct a solicitor specialist in international law and that you act immediately to ensure that the proper steps are taken to safeguard the children from the outset.

If you wish to relocate with your children to another area of the UK or abroad and the children’s other parent does not agree, you will need to make an application to the Court for a relocation order.

See our relocation section and child abduction section for further information, and if you need advice in relation to your children, please contact us on 020 8290 7341 or 020 8290 0333 to speak to a member of our team who will be able to guide you through the process. If you are concerned that your child may be removed from the country imminently, call our out of hours number +44 (0) 7732686227. If we do not respond, please leave a message with your telephone number, and we will return your call shortly.


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