Children

The breakdown of a relationship or difficulties in agreeing the arrangements for your children is a stressful time for you and your family.

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

We also recognise that there may be difficulties agreeing on how the children should be looked after post separation, and we are here to provide you with advice on the most appropriate arrangements for your children, that will be in their interests and in yours. 

Who is entitled to the care of the children?

A child can live with one parent but can also be with both parents if satisfactory arrangements can be made. Step-parents and grandparents can also make applications in respect of children in certain circumstances.

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 Bromley 020 8290 0333 or Beckenham 020 658 3922 to make an appointment.

How do we decide the arrangements for the children?

Parents with shared responsibility for the children often negotiate an arrangement bearing in mind 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 prefers. 

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.
  • 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 order, the Court will take into account:

  • The child’s age and background, including the child’s current routine
  • The child’s views
  • 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. 

What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental responsibility is the right to make key decisions about a child’s welfare such as issues relating to their education, health and day to day care.

Not all parents have parental responsibility for their children. Mothers acquire parental responsibility automatically and parental responsibility is conferred on those who have an order that a child lives with them. Biological fathers who are married to the mother when a child is born also acquire parental responsibility automatically. Unmarried fathers whose names appear on the birth certificate post December 2003 also acquire parental responsibility.

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.

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 specialist 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.

If you need advice in relation to your children, please contact us on Bromley 020 8290 0333 or Beckenham 020 8658 3922 to speak to a member of our team who will be able to guide you through the process.