‘Sole Custody’ is no longer the legal terminology used and there is no such thing as a ‘Custody Order’. If you find yourself asking this question and searching for an answer, then it is imperative you obtain some independent legal advice. Andrew Isaacs Law offer fixed fee consultations with no obligation to instruct. You can therefore obtain in-depth advice enabling you to consider your options.
We understand what a difficult and emotional time it can be when parents cannot agree arrangements for their children. It is of course always best for the children if parents can agree arrangements harmoniously.
A Child Arrangements Order is a Court Order that is legally binding and sets out the arrangements for how and when children will spend time with parents and with whom the child shall live. This Order will usually last until the child turns 18. If the child in question is 16 or over, it is unlikely the Court will wish to grant a Child Arrangements Order.
To be the sole carer for your child, then you need to consider a Child Arrangements Order, whereby you will be the sole carer for your children if you have a ‘Live with Order’.
If you obtain a ‘Live with Order’ through the Courts, then you should be aware that this will not remove parental responsibility from the other parent. It would however mean that you are the primary carer of the child or children.
You are expected as parents to agree arrangements for your children between you. Therefore, should the other parent of the child agree that you should have Sole Custody of your child, then so be it. If parents cannot agree who the child will live with, or how they will spend time with the child then you will need to consider a Child Arrangements Order.
The paramount consideration of the Court and Lawyers is the welfare of the child, and this should always be the consideration of the parents.
Having parental responsibility of a child does not give you an automatic right to spend time with a child.
A mother has parental responsibility for her child from birth. A father will have parental responsibility if he is married to the child’s mother or named on the birth certificate. A father can apply for parental responsibility if he does not automatically have it.
It is very difficult to have parental responsibility removed. A Court Application can be made but this will only be granted in exceptional circumstances.
Should you be able to agree that you are going to be the parent with whom your child lives with and you care for solely, then this does not need to be recorded in a Court document. However, should it not be recorded by way of a Court Order, then it is not a legally binding document.
It is therefore your decision should you be the sole carer for your child as the other parent choses not to have a relationship with the child, whether you continue with that or want that decision to be made formal by way of seeking a Court Order.
You may be happy with the arrangements you have and do not wish to disturb the status quo, however some people do not feel comfortable that should one parent renege on their agreement or precedent, then this parent can essentially remove the child from your care at any time and not return them, whilst there is nothing that can be done by yourself or the Police, as it is considered a civil matter.
It is an option to consider parenting plans and separated parents information programmes, but again it is important to remember these documents are not legally binding however they could be used to show a precedent.
As a parent should you not wish for your child to see their parent as you believe they present a real risk to your child’s safety and welfare, then you can manage that risk by protecting your child and not allowing the other parent to spend time with the child. It is important that this decision is made for the sole purpose of protecting the child’s welfare and is not malicious or this could be reflected unfavourably should the other parent make a Court Application.
If the other parent has physically harmed your child, then you should contact the Police and relevant authorities with immediate effect.
Generally speaking, it is in the best interest of a child to have a strong loving relationship with both parents. If this is not the case and the other parent is not capable of promoting the welfare of their child, does not recognise their best interests or poses a threat to their welfare (be it through physical harm, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse or financial abuse), then you need to consider your options.
If you have failed to reach an agreement directly then you should take independent legal advice. Before you can make an application for a Child Arrangements Order, you must partake in a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (known as a MIAM), unless an exemption applies, such as where there is domestic violence or urgency.
Child Arrangements Orders are not only used for ‘live with’ and ‘spend time with’ Orders, they can be used for specific issues such as passport applications, school choices and many other decisions regarding your children where parents cannot reach agreement.
You are required to fill out a C100 and this can be done on your behalf online. At the time of writing this article the Court fee for the application is £232. Your application should be submitted to the local Family Court near to where your child lives. If there are allegations of harm and domestic violence that you want the Court to be aware of, then you can fill in a supplemental form C1A to be submitted along with the C100.
Our team of Specialist Family Layers can help you through this very difficult and emotional time, be it through discussions directly with the other parent, Solicitors or the Court should agreement not be able to be reached without a Court Application.
Our lawyers have a wealth of experience and knowledge and will be able to guide and advise you every step of the way should you need it. We have the ability to speak with other lawyers, experts, the court, social services, charities etc, and will do everything we can to help achieve the outcome required for you and your family and to ease you through the process with all the support required.
We offer a fixed fee appointment where you will be provided with tailored advice and discuss your options going forward.
Should you wish to book a no obligation appointment then please do not hesitate to contact us on 01302 349 480.
Roxanne Woolliams – Family Law Solicitor