Child arrangements are more commonly known as child living arrangements, child custody, child residence and child contact.
The requirements of children are always of the utmost importance following a family breakdown. The law regarding children focuses on what is in the children’s best interests as opposed to the interested of the parents.
At SAS Daniels our family law solicitors are specialists in dealing with legal matters which involve children. We can help you to determine who a child should live with, the amount of time the child should spend with the non-residential parent and many other issues relating to children. Mediation is often a good way forward in these cases as it allows an element of impartiality into the situation where emotions can run high.
In England the legal system encourages and favours voluntary agreements between parents rather than arrangements made through court imposed orders. It is widely recognised that voluntary agreements are more likely to succeed in the long term. The courts will typically only be involved if both parents are unable to reach an arrangement which is in the best interest of their child.
Deciding who the child should live with?
Arranging who a child should live with is sometimes known as ‘child custody’ or ‘child residence’. It should always be a top priority for any children involved to have a stable and safe place to live.
In majority of cases a child will live mostly with one parent and the other will have ‘contact’ at regular and pre-arranged intervals. Such as at weekends. Our specialist family law solicitors can help you to negotiate an agreement which is most suitable for your child.
When creating the arrangements many different factors will be taken into account. This includes:
- The feelings and wishes of the children
- The day to day availability of each parent (looking into work arrangements and other commitments)
- Previous day to day care. E.g. whether one parent has previously undertaken more of everyday care than the other
In some cases it is possible for parents to have shared care of the children. For this arrangement to succeed it has to be appropriate for the children to move regularly between homes without it being too disruptive for them.
When a dispute between parents arises, each parent will be encouraged to try and reach a compromise on the issues in dispute. It is often possible to seek the assistance of a trained Family Mediator who can help the parents discuss their views openly and try to reach agreement between themselves.
We will advise you as to whether Family Mediation is an appropriate option for you and we can help arrange Mediation for you if required.
Organising child contact with the non-resident parent
In England the law typically accepts that it is in the interests of the child to consistent contact with both parents, unless special circumstances apply.
Contact with your child can be in a number of different forms, such as evenings during the week or days at the weekend spent with the non-resident parent. As well as this children should also be encouraged to spend long periods with the non-resident parent. E.g. longer stays during school holidays or overnight stays.
It is beneficial to work out a routine for contact with your children which is regular and which suits the needs of both the parents and the children. This will help to maintain ongoing contact with the non-resident parent and provide the children with consistency.
It is up to the parents to agree a routine that suits everyone involved. In our experience, agreements reached between the parents succeed better than those imposed by the court. There are no specific rules laid down in law as to how much contact is allowed by each parent.
Typically, child arrangements can be worked out by a process of negotiation between the parents and with the help of their solicitors where required. If you are not able to reach a compromise between yourselves, then the courts can impose a Child Arrangements
Order that specifies exactly what time the children will spend with each parent.
What happens if an agreement cannot be reached by negotiation?
If negotiations between the parents is not possible the next option is Family Mediation. If Mediation doesn’t work then it may be possible to go to court resolve any issues involving children.
In court, a family judge can make a number of ‘Orders’, which are commands that must be followed. This orders state what the arrangements for the children will be.
Common court orders which can be made are:
Child Arrangements Order (Replaces the previous Child Residence Order and Child Contact Order)
A Child Arrangements Order outlines who the children will live with once the separation is made permanent. It is possible to have a shared Child Arrangements Order which will specify the periods that the children spend with each parent. A Child Arrangements Order also specifies how often the non-resident parent will see the children. It will clearly outline when and for how long contact will take place. It is the duty of the resident parent to promote contact with the other parent and to encourage the children to attend.
Prohibited Steps Order
A Prohibited Steps Order can be granted to prevent a parent from taking a particular step in relation to the children, for example taking the children out of the country without the consent of the other parent or the court.
Specific Issue Order
A Specific Issue Order is where you need the court’s assistance in making a key decision about your child’s life. This can include things such as which school your children will attend, what religion they will be brought up in or which surname they will be known by.
Parental Responsibility Orders
Parental responsibility is a legal phrase used to define who has the rights and obligations to make decisions that affect a child’s life. A court will generally grant a Parental Responsibility Order to a parent unless there is sufficient reason not to.
We can assist you regarding your children and advise you on the procedure and the type of order that the court can make.
When it comes to child maintenance and providing financially for your child there are also agreements which can be put in place. Further information on these agreements can be found on our child maintenance agreements page.
If you would like more information regarding any child law matters, please contact a member of our team.