Child Law Advice

Unfortunately, when parents separate, they often disagree on how their children should be cared for going forward.  Family courts encourage parents to reach agreement on issues regarding their children where possible, as it is generally accepted that an arrangement which has been agreed between the parties will have a greater chance of working successfully.

At IBB Solicitors, we understand how challenging these issues can be. Our specialist child law solicitors offer a sensitive, practical approach to helping you deal with disputes involving your children. With decades of specialist expertise and a high level of personal service, we can help you get the right outcome for you and your children as easily as possible.

As members of Resolution, a network of legal professionals committed to removing conflict from family law, we are also keen to promote mutually agreed arrangements through mediation and amicable negotiation. We offer sensitive, practical advice to help you resolve these matters so that they are less stressful for you but also, more importantly, your children.

Where this is not possible, our solicitors have a wealth of experience in dealing with children law matters.  Vicky Preece and Celia Whittuck have also worked extensively representing children in public law matters, which enhances our insight into the wishes and feelings of children subject to family disputes.

If agreement cannot be reached, it is open to the parents or, in some circumstances, extended family members, to apply to court for a variety of orders.

We aim, where possible, to represent clients at court ourselves rather than instructing a barrister so that you are provided with consistency in representation throughout your case.  In very complex cases, if we consider it in your best interests to instruct a barrister, we will work closely with them to represent your best interests.

To speak to our child law solicitors or to arrange an initial fixed fee consultation, please contact your local IBB Solicitors office in Chesham, Reading or Uxbridge, or email familylaw@ibblaw.co.uk.

Why IBB Solicitors are the right choice for you and your children

We are not your typical law firm. Our child law solicitors offer a high level of expertise in dealing with some of the most complex and challenging legal issues involving children.

Our Family Law team is led by Amanda Melton a highly experienced family lawyer who has been recognised in the Legal 500 for combining “exceptional professional knowledge with strong interpersonal skills” as well as for her “straight-talking approach and honesty about the potential pitfalls of a case”.

We are recognised as one of the leading Family Law team in the South East, being ranked Tier 1 by the Legal 500 for Family Law in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Middlesex, as well as being Band 2 ranked by Chambers & Partners for Watford, Uxbridge and the surrounding area.

Many of our team are members of Resolution, a network of legal professionals committed to removing conflict from family law. This reflects the strong emphasis we place on making divorce and separation easier and less stressful for you and your children.

Our child law advice services

Mediation

Save in specific circumstances, such as if there has been a history of domestic abuse, you will normally need to consider attending mediation before any court application can be made in relation to your children.  This reinforces the principle that parents and family members are encouraged to reach an agreement regarding arrangements for children before embarking on court proceedings.

Child arrangement

The old style ‘residence’ and ‘contact’ orders were replaced with Child Arrangements Orders in 2014.  These orders can set out whom the child will ‘live with’ (residence) and whom they will ‘spend time with’.  Orders may be made in favour of parents or, in some circumstances, extended family members such as grandparents.  The orders will generally set out the details of contact such as where contact will take place and how long it will be for.

In some circumstances, particularly where there are difficulties for the parents making arrangements to drop off/pick up the child from each other, or where there has been or is a risk of harm to the child or parent, the court can make orders for supported or supervised contact.  Our child law solicitors can help guide you in relation to these matters.

Specific issue orders

Courts may be asked to intervene to decide specific issues when these cannot be agreed between the parents.  These issues may relate to whether a child’s surname should be changed, where they should go to school or whether they may be taken out of the country.  In determining these issues, the child’s welfare will be the court’s paramount consideration and the court will refer to the ‘welfare checklist’ when deciding what order to make.

Prohibited steps orders

This is an order which prevents a named person from doing something.  For example, if a parent threatens to remove a child from the care of the other parent or threatens to remove the child from the country, the court can be asked to make an order preventing this.

Usually urgent action is required in these cases therefore the earlier you take legal advice the better.

Special Guardianship Orders

These orders are often used in circumstances to confirm a child will live with, for example, extended family members such as grandparents when they are not able to live with their parents.  A Special Guardianship Order gives the Special Guardian parental responsibility for the child.  The Special Guardian will need to go through an assessment by the Local Authority and, if an SGO is recommended, the Local Authority will consider what support, including financial support, should be given to the Special Guardian.

It is important to seek legal advice to ensure that the optimum level of support is being offered.

Parental Responsibility

Parental Responsibility is an important aspect of a child’s life.  It relates to an adult’s responsibility to look after the welfare of a child.

If you do not have Parental Responsibility, it will limit your rights and ability to make important decisions regarding your child.

Birth mothers will always have Parental Responsibility for a child.  Fathers will have Parental Responsibility at the time of the child’s birth only if they were married to the mother at that time.

Fathers can acquire Parental Responsibility by any of the following methods:

  • Being registered on the child’s birth certificate
  • Entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother
  • Obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order from the court
  • Obtaining a Child Arrangements (‘live with’) Order from the court.

Other family members may acquire Parental Responsibility by obtaining a court order.

Protection from domestic abuse

Domestic abuse can take many forms; from physical violence to non-physical forms of emotional or financial abuse.  Coercive control is also a form of domestic abuse and is a criminal offence.  It is, however, often difficult to prove to the criminal burden of proof and therefore clients may need to seek protection from the family court instead.

Often clients are even unaware that they are suffering domestic abuse from which they deserve protection.  We deal with these matters in a compassionate, sensitive and supportive manner.

In some exceptional circumstances, a non-molestation order (more commonly referred to as an injunction) can be obtained by making an application to the court without notice to the person alleged to be inflicting the abuse.  We can talk you through whether this is appropriate in your individual circumstances and give you the practical and legal support to protect not only you but also any relevant children.

There are also certain circumstances when you can apply to the court for an order that your partner leaves the family home.

Parental alienation

A sadly all too common situation following divorce is that one parent “turns the child against” the other parent. This can often result in the children coming to distrust or fear one of their parents and no longer wishing to spend time with them. This is known as ‘parental alienation’.

If you have become alienated from your children due to the actions of your former partner, we can advise you on your options. This may include applying to a court for access to your children where required and working with a child counsellor to address your children’s negative perception of you.

Find out more about parental alienation.

Children of same sex couples

For same sex couples with children, there can often be issues around parental responsibility that can add additional challenges during a separation. Who has parental responsibility for your children will depend on the circumstance.

If one of you is the biological mother, they will automatically have parental responsibility. If you were married to, or in a civil partnership with, the biological mother when they conceived through artificial insemination you will also have parental responsibility.

If the child was adopted or you used a surrogate, you will need to be named in the Adoption Order or Parental Order to have parental responsibility.

If you do not have parental responsibility, we can help you with securing this to ensure you have the right to have a say in your child’s upbringing.

Who can apply?

Those automatically entitled to apply to the court for a Child Arrangements Order, Specific Issue Order or Prohibited Steps Order are:

  • Parents, including unmarried fathers
  • Guardians
  • Special Guardians
  • Step-parents who have Parental Responsibility for the child
  • Any person who has a Child Arrangements (‘live with’) order in relation to the child

Those also entitled to apply for a Child Arrangements Order include:

  • Any party to a marriage where the child is considered to be a ‘child of the family’
  • Any civil partner in a civil partnership where the child is considered to be a ‘child of the family’
  • Anyone with whom the child has lived with for a period of at least three years.

The following are entitled to apply for a Child Arrangements (‘live with’) order:

  • A Local Authority foster carer if the child has lived with them for at least a year
  • A relative of the child if the child has lived with them for at least a year.

The somewhat surprising point here is that grandparents are not automatically entitled to apply to the court for an order relating to the child unless the child has lived with them for at least a year.  In circumstances where a couple separates, the grandparents can often become estranged from the children who have limited contact with the non-resident parents.

That is not to say that grandparents, and other extended family members cannot apply to court but they will need to seek the court’s permission to do so.  This can be done by way of paper application and the court will consider, in particular, the relative’s connection with the child and whether the proposed application presents a risk of disrupting the child’s life to such an extent that it would cause them harm.

Our child law advice fees

We want our fees to be completely transparent, so we provide clear cost estimates at the outset and offer a number of different fee structures to cover the cost of our legal advice.

Initial fixed fee consultation

For initial advice on your legal options, our child law solicitors offer a fixed cost consultation at a reduced fee. This allows you to explain the challenges you need help with, and lets our team talk you through the different approaches available and the issues you need to consider before deciding how you want to move forward.

Fixed fee child law advice

Some aspects of our children law services can be dealt with on a fixed fee basis, where we agree a price in advance for different stages of sorting out arrangements for your children. For example, we can agree a fixed price for each session of mediation or for dealing with specific matters, such as submitting an application for a Child Arrangements Order.

Individual charge-out rates for our child law solicitors

We can also work according to a pre-agreed hourly rate, meaning you are charged for the exact amount of time we spend working on your case. This allows us to give exactly as much or as little support as you need to get the right outcome for you and your children.

To find out more about our fees, please take a look at our pricing policy.

Speak to our expert child law solicitors in West London, Buckinghamshire and the Thames Valley

For sympathetic, expert child law advice, you can contact your local IBB Solicitors office in Chesham, Reading or Uxbridge, or email familylaw@ibblaw.co.uk.

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Children and Divorce: Considerations in Relation to the Arrangements For Your Children