At Family Law Partners, we understand that agreeing arrangements for children can be highly emotional and difficult for everyone involved. Our award-winning collaborative team of family and child law solicitors can guide and support you to achieve the best outcome for you and your children, advising you on methods of alternative dispute resolution with the aim of saving you time and money – as well as ensuring the needs of the whole family (children especially) are met so that you can focus on re-establishing a healthy co-parenting relationship.
We believe that cases involving divorce and children doesn’t have to mean upset and conflict, and our team of child law solicitors, mediators, collaborative lawyers and arbitrators can work with you to ensure the best outcome for you and your family.
Services provided by our child law solicitors in London
Our child law services include:
- Court Orders for Children:
- Child Arrangements Orders
- Specific Issues and Prohibited Steps Orders
- Child Maintenance applications
- Relocation of children
- Child Abduction (including cases with an international aspect)
- Family Mediation
- Special Guardianship
- Parenting Plans
Frequently Asked Questions
What is child law?
Child law is not a legal term that is widely used within the family law sector. However, the law relating to children is extensive within family law. In our jurisdiction, children are considered at the forefront of proceedings. For example, when determining financial provision on divorce, the courts primary consideration is the welfare of any children of the family under the age of 18. Further and most naturally, the best interests of the child are the paramount concern for the court when considering orders under The Children Act 1989.
Why do I need a child law solicitor?
We always encourage parties, wherever possible, to come to an agreement regarding the children between themselves. However, often this is not possible due to a lack of communication or mutual understanding between parties. Often, we find client’s struggling to find clarity about different resolution methods. One of our solicitors will be able to provide you with impartial child law advice and work through all the options available to you to ensure the stress and anxiety that accompanies these processes is as minimised as possible.
How do courts decide who gets custody of a child?
In the UK “child custody law”, and the concept of “custody”, is now referred to as “contact” or “child arrangements.” When considering what parent has contact with the child and in what proportions, the over-riding concern of the court is the welfare of the child/ren. The Children Act 1989 provides a list of considerations for the judge, which help guide them in making a decision. We refer to this as the welfare checklist which includes:
- the wishes and feelings of the child concerned;
- the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs;
- the likely effect on the child if circumstances changed as a result of the court’s decision;
- the child’s age, sex, background and any other characteristics that will be relevant to the court’s decision;
- any harm the child has suffered or may be at risk of suffering;
- the capability of the child’s parents (or other relevant people) in meeting the child’s needs; and
- the powers available to the court.
Additionally, the court must presume when considering an application for contact that involvement of each parent (of some direct or indirect kind but not any particular division of a child’s time) in the life of the child concerned will be in the child’s best interests, unless there is evidence of serious welfare concerns to the contrary.
The court will also apply a sliding scale to the treatment of the child/ren’s wishes and feelings when assessing the weight to be given to their views. For example, little weight will be given to very young children, but as the child gets older and more mature greater weight will be given to their wishes and feelings by the court.
How common is a 50/50 arrangement?
There is no automatic presumption that a child’s time should be equally divided between both parents and each case is considered on its own facts and merits. The court will consider what arrangement is in the best interests of a child, taking into account the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs as well as the impact any change in the child’s circumstances is likely to have on him or her. The practical realities of the family will also be taken into consideration for example factors such as the work schedules of each parent and the availability of childcare.
Which court order should I apply for regarding my children?
The court, under section 8 of the Children Act 1989 can make the following orders: –
- Child arrangements orders (formerly known as residence orders and contact orders before 22 April 2014);
- Prohibited steps orders; and/or
- Specific issue orders.
Child arrangements orders (CAO)
A child arrangements order is an order that regulates arrangements for a child that can relate to any of the following:
- With whom the child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with; and
- When the child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person.
Contact simply means the time that a child spends with an adult and there are several ways in which contact can take place:
- Direct contact between the child and the person named in the order;
- Overnight staying contact;
- Supervised contact; and
- Indirect contact, maybe by FaceTime or through letters or cards.
In rare circumstances, where the best interests of the child dictate, the court can order that there is no contact. This will only apply in the most extreme of circumstances.
Prohibited steps orders and specific issues orders
As the name of these orders implies, these orders enable a parent to apply to the court to request that the other parent be prevented from taking a particular step or to apply to ask the court to resolve a specific issue relating to the children.
Special guardianship orders
A special guardianship order can be made when a child may not be best placed with either of their parents. The order will name an individual as the child’s Special Guardian and they will be responsible for looking after the child, making the day-to-day decisions that impact them and meeting their needs.
Parental Responsibility orders
An order can be made to give a person e.g. parent, grandparent, other relative legal status as a parent so that they can make important decisions regarding the child such as schooling, consent for medical treatment, etc.
Financial orders for married couples
Children are taken into consideration within the financial proceedings upon divorce, the court can make periodical payments (maintenance) orders, property transfer orders and lump sum orders.
Financial orders for unmarried couples
If a couple are unmarried, the court can make financial orders for their child’s benefit under the Children Act 1989. Subject to resources, the financially better off party may be ordered to provide for dependent children. The court has the power to make the following orders:
- A maintenance order (the paying parent must be earning over £156,000 gross per annum);
- School fees order;
- Order to meet expenses arising from a child’s disability;
- Lump sum orders to pay expenses associated with bringing up the child/ren; and/or
- An order stating that property must be provided for the child and the other parent to live in.
Do I have Parental Responsibility?
Parental responsibility means the legal rights, duties, powers, responsibilities, and authority a parent has for a child and the child’s property during their minority. Important decisions in a child’s life must be agreed with anyone else who has parental responsibility for a child.
A mother automatically has parental responsibility for her child from birth. A father usually has parental responsibility if he is either married to the child’s mother or listed on the birth certificate. If a father does not automatically have parental responsibility, they can apply for it through a parental responsibility agreement with the mother or a parental responsibility order from the court.
How can Family Law Partners help?
Our team of child law solicitors understand that agreeing arrangements for children can be one of the most difficult parts of separation or divorce as it means processing the fact that sometimes your children will not be with you – which is really hard for your children, for you and also for the other parent.
We take a solution-focused approach to arrangements for children, and we can guide and support you to achieve the best outcome for you and your children.
Contact our child law solicitors in London