veritas law solicitors blackburn
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solicitors in blackburn

Children – Living Arrangements after divorce or separation

(Previously known as Child residence and contact)

Following a divorce or separation, the needs of any children involved are of the highest importance. The law in relation to children in England is clearly based on what is in the child’s best interests and not the best interests of the us

It is important to ensure that arrangements for where the children will live, when and how often they will have contact with the parent they aren’t living with, and where they will go to school are all agreed.

The courts will only usually become involved if both parents are unable to reach a suitable compromise about these issues themselves. In practice the law prefers voluntary agreements between parents rather than court imposed settlements as it is judged that voluntary agreements are more likely to succeed in the long run.

Which parent the child will live with?

Deciding which parent the child will live with is sometimes referred to as ‘child custody’ or ‘child residence’. It is of critical importance for any children involved to have a stable and safe place to live.

It is common for the children to live primarily with one parent and the other parent to have ‘contact’ at regular, pre-arranged intervals, such as at weekends. An experienced family solicitor can help you to negotiate these arrangements.

Many factors will influence the decision on the child’s living arrangements, including the wishes and feelings of the children themselves, the day to day availability of the parents (in light of work and other commitments) and also whether one party has historically undertaken more of the day to day care than the other.

In some cases it can be possible for parents to have shared residence of the children. For this arrangement to work it has to be practical for the children to move regularly between homes without it being too disruptive and unsettling for them.

When a voluntary agreement cannot be found between both parents they may be encouraged to seek the assistance of a trained Family Mediator, who can help the parties to discuss their views openly and try and reach agreement between themselves. This is often a cheaper and quicker way than going to court to solve the deadlock.

Child contact with the non-resident parent

English law generally accepts that it is in the interests of children to have regular contact with both parents.

It is important that both parents work out a routine for contact with their children which is regular and which suits the needs of both parents and the children.

There are no specific rules as to how much contact is allowed. It is up to the couple involved to agree a routine that suits the children. In our experience, agreements reached by the parents work better than those imposed by the court.

What if we cannot agree on the children’s living arrangements and contact?

If negotiations between yourselves and Family Mediation and are not effective then it may be necessary to go to court to get the issues of child living arrangements and child contact resolved.

At this stage it is critical that you have an experienced family solicitor with you to ensure that you get the best outcome possible.

A family court Judge can make a number of ‘Orders’ which are directives stating what the arrangements for the children will be.

The Orders that can be made are:

Living arrangements (Replaces the previous Residence order and Contact order)

A Living arrangements order determines who the children will live with once the separation is made permanent. It is possible to have a shared Living arrangements order and the order will specify the periods that the children will spend with each parent. A Living 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.

Parental Responsibility Orders

Parental Responsibility is a legal phrase used to define who has the rights and obligations in making decisions that affect the child’s life. A court will generally grant a Parental Responsibility Order to a parent unless there is sufficient reason not to.

Specific Issue Orders

A Specific Issue Order is where you require the court’s assistance in making a key decision about your child’s life. This often includes things such as which school your children will attend, what religion they will be brought up or which surname they will be known by.

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 from taking the children out of the country without the consent of the other parent or the court.

Please contact us for more information.