When parents split up, hard decisions will have to be made as to who their children will live with and what time they will spend with the non-resident parent.
Sometimes such arrangements can be agreed amicably between the separating couple, but if the split is acrimonious and no agreement can be reached, it may be necessary to let a court decide as Sue Jury, a family law solicitor at Rundlewalker Solicitors in Exeter, explains.
If you have parental responsibility for your children, you can apply to the court for a ‘child arrangement order’. This order sets out where your child lives; when your child will have contact with each parent; and when and what other types of contact with the non-resident parent should take place (for example, phone calls).
Mothers automatically have parental responsibility for a child from birth. A father usually has parental responsibility if he is married to the child’s mother or is listed on the birth certificate. An unmarried father can get parental responsibility for his child by: jointly registering the birth of the child with the mother; getting a parental responsibility agreement with the mother; or getting a parental responsibility order from a court.
You will usually be required to attend a mediation session with your ex-partner before going to court, to see if you can reach an agreement without the court’s intervention. This requirement will not be compulsory in certain situations, for example if domestic abuse is an issue.
Mediation involves an independent third party, who does not offer advice or take sides. The mediator will help and encourage the couple to talk through their issues until a resolution is found that is acceptable to both sides.
If agreement about child arrangements can be reached using one of these processes, you can set out what you have agreed in a Parenting Plan. You can then ask your solicitor to draft a consent order confirming your agreement which can then be approved by a court to make it legally binding.
If mediation fails and the case has to go to court, the best interests of the children will always be paramount in a judge’s mind when reaching a decision regarding your children. Before they grant an order, they will consider the:
How a solicitor can help
If you and your former partner are having problems agreeing living arrangements for your children, it is a good idea to seek immediate legal advice from a family law specialist.
An expert family lawyer will explain your options, prepare you for any mediation sessions, guide you through the process and be there to speak on your behalf if you need to go to court, as well as taking care of any paperwork required.
For a confidential discussion, please contact Sue Jury on 01392 209212 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.