We all hope that if our relationship with the parent of our children breaks down that we are able to make arrangements for the children without recourse to solicitors or the courts. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible, and in such circumstances we are able to advise and assist you in resolving matters in the least stressful way.
The Children Act 1989 sets out the law in relation to how the Court deals with all applications to the Court involving children, and when reaching any decision, the main concern is the welfare of the child in question; and not the needs of either parent.
The Court can get involved in the following situations:
If there is a dispute over where the children will live, the Courts will intervene and make a decision for the parents, based on what is in the best interests of the child, favouring a solution offering permanence and stability, often assuming the following:
- The continuation of existing arrangements will be preferred if at all possible
- The stay-at-home parent may be preferred over the working parent
- The parent more able to facilitate contact to the other parent may be at an advantage
- The children’s wishes and feelings will be taken into account, dependent upon their age and understanding.
- Siblings should not be separated where possible.
It should be stressed that this is only an order which determines where the child should live. It gives the resident parent no greater rights over the child than the non-resident parent – shared residence, affording the same rights to both parents may be appropriate if it is deemed to be in the child’s best interests.
If children live with one parent, there needs to be suitable arrangements for them to spend time with the other parent. It is not unusual for there to be a Residence Order to one parent, and a contact order to the other ensuring that both parents get to spend quality time with their children, to include holidays.
An important principle is that it is the right of the child to see its non-resident parent (and sometimes grandparents). Contact should not be seen as a reward or punishment for one or other parent. The Court believes that it is the right of the child to have a relationship with both parents, and its role is to help finalise these arrangements.
3. Specific Issue Orders and Prohibited Steps Orders
These two types of order go to the heart of how a parent exercises Parental Responsibility. The Court can order that:
- one parent does something positive (Specific Issue) – for example the child will go to this school rather than that school; or
- one parent shall not do something (Prohibited Step) – for example, shall not change the child’s name, or shall not take the child out of the country without the other parent’s consent.
4. Parental Responsibility Order
Parental Responsibility is the right to have an active involvement in the upbringing of the child. The mother of the child will always have parental responsibility, but the father will only have such if he was married to the mother of the child, if the child was born before 1st December 2003 or if he is named on the birth certificate, if the child was born after 1st December 2003.
If the father does not have PR, and the mother does not agree to sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement, the father can apply for a Parental Responsibility Order through the courts. Such order will usually be granted by the court provided the father can show that he has been committed to the child.
For further information concerning Child Matters please contact Jonathan Petch on telephone number 01752 665037, by fax on 01752 670312 or by