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When you separate your biggest worry can be the children. Who will they live with? Will I get to see them? How often should I expect to see them? These questions are also raised of grandparents and other wider family members. For more information for Grandparents please visit our dedicated website at Grandparentslegalcentre.co.uk
Ideally separated parents will be able to make their own joint decisions about the welfare of the children, including
- where they will live
- who will be the primary carer and
- how often will the non-resident parent get to see them
- where will the children go to school
Unfortunately, some parents require legal assistance and intervention and we can do this for you.
We understand that the children’s needs, both physically and emotionally, are the major factors which all separating parents should prioritise above all else. This can be very difficult if parents have different views about their child’s needs. Sometimes children can be at risk when in the care of one parent or another or extended family members and this can be difficult to prove. We can help you to present your case objectively to the Court and to Court Welfare (CAFCASS) so as to ensure you achieve an outcome in the best interests of your child.
The Children Act 1989 as amended by s11 of Children and Families Act (CAFA) 2014 says:
“each parent should continue to be “involved” in their children’s lives so long as it is safe to do so”.
Principles for making Child Arrangement Orders.
Although not all separated parents end up in Court, it is useful for you to know that when making arrangements for children the following three principles apply:-
- The child or children’s welfare is of the paramount importance;
- The court must consider whether any delay is likely to prejudice the welfare of the child or children; and
- The court shall not make an order unless it considers that doing so would be better for the child or children than making no order at all.
In deciding whether an order should be made, the court will have regard to:
(a) the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child or children concerned (considered in the light of the child or children’s age and understanding);
(b) the child or children’s physical, emotional and educational needs;
(c) the likely effect on the child or children of any change in his/her circumstances;
(d) the child or children’s age, sex, background, and any other characteristic which the court considers relevant;
(e) any harm which the child or children has / have suffered or is /are at risk of suffering;
(f) how capable each of the child or children’s parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting the child or children’s needs;
The court will only make a formal order if there is a dispute – otherwise no order will be made. We can help you to navigate the law to secure the right outcome for your child. We will give you objective and ‘straight talking’ advice so as to ensure that the court addresses the essential issues.
A Child Arrangements Order can say who a child can spend time with and where the contact will take place (formerly called a contact order). For example, a parent who wants to have contact with a child and the other parent refuses to grant it, after exhausting all other avenues including negotiation, correspondence and mediation, will need to apply to the Court for help. Another example is where there is a dispute between parents about who is best to care for the child.
The Court can make orders on what are known as Prohibited Steps and Specific Issues. As the names suggest, on an application for Prohibited Steps the Court can order that a child is not removed from a person or place without authority of that person or the Court, and in respect of a Specific Issue application, the Court can be asked to make decisions about specific things, such as what a child is called, what school they should go to, whether they can be taken abroad temporarily or permanently. We can advise you on your specific circumstances and recommend action that is right for you and your child.
Increasingly here at Ridley and Hall, we are seeing a lot of parents who want to relocate to another country with their children, or want to oppose an application by the other parent for them to move to another country. Sometimes children are taken out of the country without the other parent knowing.
These cases are fraught with emotion – the parent who is wanting to go sees a new and sometimes better life for themselves and the children, whereas the parent who remains sees their children being removed from them almost permanently.
These cases are also technically very difficult. They can involve other Jurisdictions and require specialist legal representation. We can advise and represent you in your case.
The Court’s starting point is what is in the children’s best interests. However, there have been many cases that have helped build up the law on this point, and the law changes all the time. The Court need to see a well thought through plan – where the children will live, how they will be funded, what schools will they go to, how often will they see the other parent? They also need to be satisfied that it is being done for the right reasons – not to prevent contact to the other parent, for example. We will help you to present your case to the Court so as to ensure you secure the best outcome for your child.
The Court has a really difficult decision to balance up the benefits of a move, against the negatives of the move, and quite often the cases are very finely balanced. Our specialist advice can help to focus on the relevant factors and most up-to-date case law.
CAFCASS stands for Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. They have a really good website that can be found at www.cafcass.gov.uk. CAFCASS are appointed by Judges to become involved in cases once an application has been made to the Court. Their staff are professionally qualified and are called Family Court Advisors. They will work with families to make recommendations to the Judge about what should happen in particular cases. They will also, if considered appropriate, speak to children, schools, health visitors and anyone else they consider to have important information.
You should talk to us before you talk to CAFCASS. We can guide you through your interaction with CAFCASS to ensure your CAFCASS officer properly understands you, your child and the issues before the Court.
Legal Aid is very rarely available for applications to the Court for Child Arrangement Orders, unless one of the parents (or in some cases the children themselves) are the victims of domestic violence or abuse. https://www.gov.uk/legal-aid/overview
If you are not eligible for Legal Aid we will give you an estimate for the work we need to do for you at the beginning of your case. We will then keep you regularly updated about costs as your case progresses. There are a number of funding options available by agreement. In some cases, we can offer fixed fees. We will advise you if your case is suitable for a fixed fee at the outset of your case. Please talk to us to determine how you can best afford to progress your case with our specialist legal representation.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution.
Before you can make any application to the court regarding children you usually have to attend a mediation information assessment meeting.
We highly recommend that if your case is suitable for mediation you attempt this process to try and keep your matter out of the courts. You can contact us for initial advice and we can tell you if your case will be suitable for mediation. Click here for further details.
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