Children, Parents and the Law

With the breakdown of a relationship, issues concerning children often become difficult and stressful. However, the risk of long term harm to children is greatly reduced if the parents are able to reach an amicable agreement regarding arrangements for the children.

Our Family Law specialists have extensive experience and where possible like to keep matters out of Court. If that is not possible, we will turn to the Court for a resolution.

Orders the Court can make

There are different types of Order a Court can make regarding children:-

  • Living arrangements: these Orders will specify where a child will live and how much time a child is to spend with each parent.  These Orders were introduced in April 2014 and effectively replace Residence and Contact Orders.
  • Prohibited Steps Order: this acts like an injunction and can stop anyone from doing something that is not in the best interests of the child, eg. removing the child from the country without permission.
  • Specific Issue Order: this is where the Court makes a ruling on a specific dispute for example, the change of a child’s surname, choice of school etc.
  • Parental Responsibility Order: see below.

The Welfare Checklist

The child’s welfare is the paramount consideration when the Court considers any issues relating to a child. The Court will apply what is known as the ‘Welfare Checklist’ in determining any issue. The checklist looks at:-

  • The child’s wishes and feelings, considered in the light of his / her age and understanding.
  • The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs.
  • The child’s age, sex, background and any characteristics which the Court considers relevant.
  • The likely effect of any change in the child’s circumstances.
  • Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering.
  • How capable each parent is of meeting the child’s needs.

During the course of any Proceedings, an independent Child and Family Reporter (CAFCASS Officer) may be asked to meet with the family and produce a report to help the Court decide. Full details of CAFCASS and their role within Court Proceedings can be found on their website on www.cafcass.gov.uk.

The Court will not make any Order relating to a child unless it is satisfied that it is in the child’s best interests to do so.

Parental Responsibility

Rather than considering the ‘rights’ of parents, family law talks of ‘parental responsibility’ for a child. A mother always has parental responsibility for her child. A father has parental responsibility for his child if:-

  • He is married to the child’s mother when the child is born.
  • He marries the child’s mother.
  • His child was born after 1 December 2003 and he is named on the birth certificate and the child’s birth certificate is registered.
  • His child’s birth was registered before 1 December 2003 and he was not named on the birth certificate but the birth is re-registered to include his name with the mother’s consent.
  • He has a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother.
  • He has a Parental Responsibility Order from the Court.
  • He has a Residence Order from the Court.
  • He becomes the child’s Guardian.

As an unmarried father, you are strongly advised to obtain parental responsibility which covers matters such as consent to medical treatment, religious upbringing, when and in what manner the child might be disciplined etc.

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