Children & Divorce
Following the breakdown of a relationship arrangements will be need to be made for the care of any children of that relationship. If there are problems in sorting out arrangements for the children & divorce, then we can assist you and advise as to the best way of trying to resolve matters.
If the parties are going through a divorce then the Court will require the completion of the Statement of Arrangements for Children form whether or not there is an agreement.
In other cases if matters are agreed then it is not essential to have a formal document drawn up. However for peace of mind it is possible to draw up a parental agreement which will enable both parties to set out what they have agreed in terms of child arrangements.
If matters are not agreed then we would always recommend that consideration is given to attending mediation to try and see if agreement is possible with the assistance of a professional third-party mediator.
Ultimately if no agreement can be reached then the Court has powers under the Children Act 1989 to make orders providing for the care and arrangements for children.
Child Arrangements Orders
A 'child arrangements order' decides:
- Where your child lives (this was formerly known as Residence, or by its old name of Custody). The Court can be asked to determine with which parent a child should live looking at all the circumstances and considering the child's best interests. This can include the making of joint or shared care orders for the child to live with both parents.
- When your child spends time with each parent (this was formerly known as Contact or by its old name of Access). Generally it is very important that a child is encouraged to maintain a relationship with both parents. If arrangements for contact for a child with a parent cannot be agreed then the Court can be asked to determine whether contact should take place and if so in what form, where and how often.
- When and what other types of contact are appropriate, such as telephone calls, letter/email contact, and when this should take place.
The Court can also consider making any of the following Orders:-
Prohibited Steps Orders
The Court can be asked to make orders preventing one party from acting in a way which is against the child's best interests, for example refusing to return a child following a contact visit.
Specific Issue Orders
The Court can be asked to make orders looking at specific issues, for example if there is a dispute over the arrangements for a particular foreign holiday, or a child's education.
There are numerous other occasions when the court may need to intervene to assist the parties where a problem has arisen regarding arrangements for the children. We can offer you guidance as to the most appropriate way of trying to resolve such matters.
Who can apply for an Order?
The child's mother, father or anyone with parental responsibility can apply. However, other people, like grandparents, can apply for these court orders but they will need to obtain permission from the courts first.
How to fund an application regarding children:
Legal Aid :
On 1 April 2013 access to public funding (formerly known as legal aid) changed and the Legal Aid Agency no longer offers public funding for many disputes concerning children.
In certain cases legal aid may still be available. However eligibility is subject to very strict criteria and will only be available if the case is regarded as exceptional or there is evidence of domestic violence/risk of harm to a relevant child or children.
If Legal aid is not available then the work carried out in relation to advice and assistance regarding children matters will be charged on a time spent basis meaning that the client will be charged depending on the amount of work undertaken to deal with the specific case.
A fixed fee may be available in certain circumstances for example if you are simply looking to agree children arrangements in the form of a parental agreement.
In all other cases the solicitor dealing with the children matter will be able to advise on the estimated costs of the proceedings based upon the anticipated amount of work required in each particular case.
Please contact our Family Team for further details.