Our team of Child Law Solicitors are dedicated specialists who pride themselves on being highly approachable, sensitive, and supportive during what can be a difficult and emotional time.

For a lot of our clients, the first and foremost consideration when separating from their partner is their children. Where the law is concerned, the welfare of a child and the needs of a child are paramount. Unfortunately, sometimes situations arise in which one parent can behave in a manner which does not put the needs and welfare of their child or children first. When this happens, it can be necessary for the other parent to consider seeking the help of child law solicitors. 

Responsibility for the children

Parental responsibility is the legal term used for the obligations and rights parents have in respect of their children. Having parental responsibility means having the right to make decisions about a child’s religion, medical treatment, education and the arrangements for where they live and whom they spend time with.

All mothers automatically have parental responsibility for their children. A father has parental responsibility if he is married to the child’s mother, named on the birth certificate, has a court order, or has entered into a parental responsibility agreement stating that he has parental responsibility.

Same-sex partners will both have parental responsibility if they were civil partners at the time of the treatment leading to contraception. For same-sex partners who aren’t civil partners, the second parent can get parental responsibility by either applying for parental responsibility, or by becoming a civil partner of the other parent and making a parental responsibility agreement, or by jointly registering the birth.

Arrangements for the children’s care

Usually, it is considered to be in the child’s best interest to have a relationship with both parents. In very rare circumstances, having no contact with one or both parents will be in the best interest of the child.

Where there are no safety concerns or there are concerns which can be effectively managed, children spending time with both parents should be arranged and encouraged. Some parents are able to make these contact arrangements without the assistance of child law solicitors. Being able to openly discuss a sensible working plan for contact going forward is a great way of creating a flexible working relationship between the parents where the child is at the centre. They may choose to record this in a Parenting Plan or Agreement, which our family lawyers can assist them in drafting

In some cases, a helping hand from child law solicitors is needed for parents to make workable arrangements for contact. A mediator with experience in children matters could also assist parents in coming to a workable agreement. Mediation is often cost effective for the parties and also creates a flexibility that a court order would not.

In the event that the parents cannot reach an agreement between themselves, a Child Arrangements Order may be necessary. A Child Arrangements Order is an order made by the court, which sets out who the child or children are to live with and on what terms they will spend time with the other parent. Although these orders can be less flexible than an arrangement parents come to between themselves, they are useful in cases where it is necessary to ensure that all parties know when contact should be happening. It can also be useful where one party often fails to stick to arrangements for the children because there are remedies for breaching such an order.

> Agreeing child care arrangements following separation flow chart 

Specific issues

We also deal with clients who have specific disagreements concerning their child’s life and welfare which they cannot resolve with the other parent. For example which school they should attend, whether they can relocate to live elsewhere or a change to the child’s name. In the event that agreement cannot be reached it is possible to make an application to the court to ask for this specific issue to be resolved.

Abduction and taking preventative action

If you fear that your children are at risk of being removed from the country by the other parent, it is important that you seek help and advice as quickly as possible from child law solicitors so that action can be taken before they are removed. Our family lawyers can assist you in applying for a Prohibited Steps Order which prevents the removal of a child from England and Wales.

A Prohibited Steps Order can also be used to stop the other parent exercising other elements of their parental responsibility, by for example stopping g them removing a child from their school, or stopping them from changing the child’s name.

The family team at Herrington Carmichael pride ourselves on providing simple and constructive advice and information to help parents put their children at the forefront of the process. If you would like more information on whether we can help you, please contact a member of the team.

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