Divorce/Separation & Children
In a divorce or relationship break-up, it can be the children who suffer more than anyone. The life they have known is changed forever, there is often upheaval at home and it can have a lasting effect on them.
Deciding how best to look after any children, therefore, should be one of the over-riding priorities for any couple going their separate ways. This involves minimising the impact upon the child’s daily life where possible, ensuring they are provided for financially and making sure they continue to benefit from being with both parents wherever possible.
The law is focused on the rights of the children, rather than those of the parents. You should consider what is in the best interests of your children and try and put aside any personal feelings you have about your partner and the reasons for the separation.
If you were married, each party has parental responsibility. This means that both parents should be involved in the important decisions in the lives of the children such as where they live, where they go to school and what medical treatment they can receive. They can also apply to the court over issues of contact or residence for their children if these cannot be agreed.
If a couple split up and were not married, only the mother has automatic parental responsibility. The father may also have parental responsibility, if the child was born after 1st December 2003 and if the father’s name is on the birth certificate and the child takes his surname. Unmarried fathers of children born before the change in the law can apply to the Court for parental responsibility.
You can also agree parental responsibility with your ex partner without going to Court and you can sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement which can then be registered with the Court.
Step-parents also have a certain expectation of being involved in the lives of the children of their new partners. Their rights and responsibilities though are limited.
The old ideas of custody and access no longer exist in law. Instead they have been replaced by a number of orders that the Court can make under their powers under the Children Act 1989.
A Residence Order states where a child should live. The Court can, in rare circumstances, make such an order in favour of more than one person, stipulating how long the child should spend with each. A Court can also make a shared Residence Order where the care of the child is shared between both parents. This does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split but will reflect that both parents are equally involved in the care of the child.
A Contact Order regulates telephone calls, visiting or staying contact at weekends and holidays and special occasions with the parent without day to day care.
Prohibited Steps Order:
A Prohibited Steps Order is called into play when one parent objects to something that the other parent is doing concerning their child. That parent can apply to the court for the other person to stop doing it.
Specific Issue Order:
The court can consider a Specific Issue Order if parents are unable to agree on a specific aspect of their child’s upbringing. This might be in relation to where the child is to go to School.
In all of the above cases, an order must be applied for and granted by the court.
The majority of parents who divorce or separate manage to resolve child care issues without the intervention of the courts. Indeed the courts are reluctant to get involved, and separating couples are encouraged to try and reach a resolution without Court intervention. Under the Children Act 1989 which governs how the Court should look at children issues it is stipulated that a Court will only make an order if not making the order would be more detrimental to the child.
We at Pinto Potts can help you resolve children issues with the assistance of our specialist Family Law Solicitors who can suggest ways forward to minimise the disruption to you and your children.
We can also offer Mediation as a solution to children issues or we can advise you on the best way to proceed and how to issue an application to deal with children matters in the Court.
If you would like to speak to our Family Law team about Children’s issues related to Divorce/Separation, please call us at Freephone 0800 316 4434 or locally at 01252 361 200 or email us.
Additionally you can use our easy “How Can We Help” service. All you need to do is fill in the form on the right-hand side of the page with the relevant details and we will contact you promptly and discretely by your preferred method. We’re here to help.