The breakdown of a relationship can be difficult for all involved especially the children and can become complicated where child arrangements need to be agreed. The relationship a child has with both parents is important and in the child’s best interests. The law sets out that a child has a right to have a loving relationship with both parents.
There are a number of methods for agreeing contact arrangements following parent’s separation and attempts should be made to agree contact as swifty as possible.
The Children’s best interests are always paramount, and parents should have this at the forefront of their minds when sorting the arrangements for the children following separation. Parents should try to remain amicable for the sake of the child and the Court would encourage co-parenting where possible. It is important for a child to be able to have contact with both parents where safe to do so and this will be encouraged by the Courts.
The first part to consider is whether you have parental responsibility.
All birth mothers automatically have Parental Responsibility. A father also has automatic Parental Responsibility if he is married to the mother at the time the child was born. If a father is not married to the mother, then a father can still have Parental Responsibility if they are registered on the Birth Certificate.
Those with Parental Responsibility have shared legal rights and responsibilities for a child. This includes important decisions such as where the child lives, consent to medical treatment and the child’s education. It should be noted that even without Parental Responsibility, parents are expected to make decisions on the child’s general wellbeing and basic needs.
You will need to apply to the Court for Parental Responsibility. Our experienced Family Lawyers can help you with this.
1. Parents reach an agreement
It is recommended that parents try and amicably reach a decision together on where the child will live, how much time the child will spend with each parent, arrangements during school holidays, Christmas and birthdays, and taking the child abroad.
Agreements without the Court’s involvement can be reached for parents without Parental Responsibility, including agreeing a parent being placed on the Birth Certificate. If an agreement is reached this way, the agreement can be recorded in a Parenting Plan which can be located on the CAFCASS website. However, it is important to note the agreement is not legally binding and enforceable unless it is approved by the Courts.
Many parents are happy for agreements to be reached this way and a lot of the time it does work for many families. If you want to make the agreement legally binding, then a Consent Order will need to be prepared, signed by both parties and approved by the Court. If the Court considers the arrangements are in the children’s best interests the Order will be approved.
Should a Court Order be required where a parent does not have Parental Responsibility, you will need to ask the Court to grant you a Parental Responsibility Order.
If you are unable to agree arrangements directly with the other parent, mediation could be an option for you. A Mediator would be unbiased and facilitate communication between the parties to help reach an agreement. This is a way of the parents reaching an agreement without the Court’s interference and is usually a quicker and more cost effective approach. However, any agreement reached at Mediation is not legally binding, a Court Order would be required. Where appropriate, child inclusive mediation is also available to establish the child’s wishes and feelings.
3. Through solicitors
Another option could be to instruct a Family Lawyer to communicate with the other parent or their lawyer. A resolution may be possible through negotiations and advice from a lawyer where it was not previously achievable by the parents themselves. Again, this can be made legally binding by the agreement being made into a Consent Order.
4. Court Order
This should be avoided as it can emotionally impact a child where there are Court proceedings, and it can also be expensive, a time-consuming process and can create further hostility between parents, which affects the children.
However, if parents are unable to reach an agreement, then a parent can apply to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order, which will confirm where the child will live, who the child will spend time with and when. A Parent who intends to apply to the Court will need to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) prior to applying unless they are exempt. It is important to note if there is a Court Order in place, then this must be followed by the parties as it is a legally binding document.
To change an Order or if contact has broken down again, an application would need to be made to take the matter back to Court if arrangements can still not be agreed or contact has been stopped altogether.
Andrew Isaacs Law can make the whole process easier for you as we understand that your family matters. Should you have any concerns or further queries in relation to seeing your child do not hesitate to get in touch.
Please call our Melton Mowbray office on 01664 896 218 or Doncaster office on 01302 349480.