When parents separate we are often asked whether children orders are needed to regulate with whom their children should live and when they should spend time with the other parent. People often still refer to such arrangements as “custody and access” disputes, despite it being a historic term, which was replaced in 1989 with “residence and contact” orders. The terminology has recently changed again to child arrangement orders, although the court operates what is called a “no order principle”.
The court will only make an order if it believes it’s in the child’s best interests to do so and if there are substantial issues or disputes that can’t be resolved by other mechanisms.
Parents are encouraged to find a forum for resolving any issues or difficulties they may have outside of the court arena, such as mediation or a meeting with the other party and their solicitor. Most parties are advised to seek legal advice whilst going through mediation so they understand their rights and obligations, as well as the kind of order the court will make if an agreement can’t be reached. Solicitors can help parents draft and negotiate a parenting plan.
If an application is made to court it will now make a child arrangements order that will set out how much time the child spends with each party.
The court can also make other kinds of children’s orders including:
Specific Issue Orders – these orders deal with specific aspects of a child’s life, e.g. which religion they should practice, where they should attend school, whether they should be allowed to leave the country for an extended holiday or to permanently live abroad.
Prohibited Steps Orders - these orders prevent a party from doing something, e.g. taking the child out of the UK or the immediate area.
Parental Responsibility - all mothers and most fathers who are on the birth certificate, or were married at the time of a child’s birth, automatically have parental responsibility. Parental responsibility effectively means that you are a recognised parent in the eyes of the law. Many fathers who don’t have parental responsibility are oblivious to this fact, but enjoy full input into their child’s life because there is no dispute and they have agreed matters with the child’s mother. Sometimes it is only when a dispute arises that a parent becomes aware that they don’t have parental responsibility. A court order or agreement can rectify this.
If you would like free, no obligation advice regarding child custody, please complete the accompanying form or call us on 0114 3992355 to arrange a 30 minute consultation.
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