Whenever there is a dispute over children, there are no winners. Only losers. Especially the kids themselves.
We will always encourage you to negotiate, conciliate or mediate.
Litigation is the very last resort.
We will take you through the forest of jargon: parental responsibility, child arrangement orders and the regulation of residence and contact, specific issue, prohibited steps, leave to remove etc. We will help you make sense of it and how the law works.
What you want is what is best for your kids – so do we!
No Order Principle
Children matters are governed by the Children Act 1989 which sets out the “no order” principle at Section 1(5) of the Act. The Court prefers families to resolve their differences privately. It will not interfere unless called upon to do so by one or other parent, and it will not make an Order unless to do so would be better for the children than not doing so.
There are three important concepts to be aware of, as follows:
This is the right and obligation of both parents to make important decisions in their child’s life, particularly with regard to matters such as education, religion, medical treatment and legal decisions. The effect is that both parents must consult each other on important matters affecting the children throughout their minority. If you cannot agree then (subject to involving outside professionals such as mediators and counsellors) any contentious decision would have to be referred to the Court, for a Judge to decide.
Child Arrangements Orders
Dealing next with the child’s living arrangements, and the time that he will spend with each parent, if these arrangements can be agreed then there will be no need to approach the Court for an Order.
However, if arrangements for cannot be agreed, it might be necessary for you to apply to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order (you could, of course, attempt mediation first). The Order will regulate those arrangements by setting out where the child will make their primary home and how much time they will spend with the other parent.
Please be aware that it is the right of the child to see their parents on a regular basis and not vice versa.
The Courts have no power to make decisions for children who are 16 or older. The Courts tend to listen to the wishes and feelings of children who are over the age of 13 or so. They tend to “vote with their feet” and decide for themselves where they want to live and how often they wish to see their non-resident parent.
Other possible remedies include:
Specific Issue Orders
Where separated parents cannot agree they can refer the specific issue to the court i.e. what school child should go to or what religion they should follow. You will need to apply for to the Court for a Specific Issue Order. This is a positive Order that makes a person do something.
Prohibited Steps Orders
If one parent proposes a course of action with which the other parent objects to e.g. taking child overseas then the court can be asked to prohibit the taking of that step. You can apply for a Prohibited Steps Order. This is a negative Order that stops a person from doing something.