Maintaining regular contact with your children following the breakdown of a relationship is extremely important. A child should be able to have a positive relationship with both parents and therefore an arrangement (whether formal or informal) should be put in place to provide stability for the children and certainty as to when, where and how long they will spend with each parent.
It is important to hear the children and to acknowledge their views in what might be very difficult situation. When children reach a certain maturity, they should be consulted as to who they want to spend time with and when.
If there are safety concerns surrounding a parent, regular unsupervised time with the children, including overnight stays, may not be appropriate. There are plenty of safeguards that we can consider putting in place to ensure the children’s safety. These can include supervised and supported contact centres, where the time the parent spends with the children are observed or supervised one to one meetings.
It is essential, but often challenging, for both parents to establish a new, almost business-like relationship following their separation so that they can continue to parent their children well. The transition is huge, particularly for the children who have usually been used to seeing both parents every day.
As solicitors specialising in all family issues concerning children, we understand the sensitivity of these situations and will take time to listen and understand the issues involved and ensure you understand your legal rights and responsibilities towards your children. We will help you take the necessary steps to find a workable solution that meets the needs of your children, provides financial stability, takes into consideration parental and child income needs and fosters stable family relationships.
We will make every effort to help you find a solution without needing to make an application to court. However if reaching an agreement is not possible, we can guide you through the Court process, where a Judge can deal with the following issues:
- where and with whom a child should live (known as a ”child arrangements order”);
- with whom the child should have contact, including grandparents and other family members;
- the frequency of such contact;
- whether the children should have separate arrangements to have some “one to one” time with their parents independent of their siblings;
- specific issues such as which school the child shall attend or issues relating to differences in religious beliefs.
If you already have a child arrangements order in place and issues are arising from them, we can assist you with enforcing the terms or seeking a variation of the agreement.
With the increase in relationships between different nationalities comes an increase in the number of parents wanting to return to their home country with their children. In these circumstances it is often very difficult for parents to agree on where the children should live, understandably owing to the difficulties the other parent will now face in spending regular time with the children.
If you are not able to agree, either between you, with the help of a mediator or with assistance from your respective solicitors, an application to the court may be the only solution. This is known as an application for “leave to remove from the jurisdiction” which allows a child to relocate from this country on a permanent basis.
If a parent threatens to remove a child from the county without proper consultation or if you have a genuine fear they intend to take such action then the court has emergency powers to prevent that from happening. They can issue a prohibited steps Order which will prevent the parent from removing the child from the country.
If the Court feels there is an imminent risk that one parent will leave the country, they have the power to put an alert on all ports. They can also request that the child’s passport and travel documents are surrendered until all matters can be properly addressed and decided.
The law in relation to children moving from this country is complex and we are able to provide clear, practical advice to help you through the process.
International relocation can be extremely difficult and take an emotional toll on each parent. We will do all that we can at Debenhams Ottaway to guide you through the process.
The role of CAFCASS
This is the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support service which offers assistance and guidance to the court in determining disputes involving children. The Judge can ask the CAFCASS service to play a role in the court proceedings and make enquiries on the Judge’s behalf.
The children will not usually be required to attend court as this can be a stressful and adult focused environment. However, the children can, in certain cases, be separately represented and may be required to speak to the Judge.
The Judge will more commonly direct that the children be seen outside of the court by a CAFCASS worker to ascertain their wishes and feelings and to explore what they might want in terms of their ongoing relationships with their parents and other family members. CAFCASS are able to speak to important people involved with the children for example visiting their school and talk with anyone who plays an important role in the child’s life. They will check to see if the family is known to the police or the local authority Children’s Services (social services).
The CAFCASS reporter will meet with the parents to understand their position and will also observe them in their interaction with their children.
CAFCASS will then make recommendations to the Judge as to what they believe would be the best arrangements for the children. The court’s primary consideration is to ensure that all decisions are made in the best interests of the children with their welfare at the forefront of the Judge’s thinking.