It’s a sad fact that on average 42 percent of marriages end up in divorce and the main victims are the children. Today we are going to discuss various scenarios covering the law relating to the children of the family, and with me today is Karis Wookey, a solicitor in Howells and a specialist in children law. Karis, we’re now going to run through a few scenarios covering parental responsibility. For my first example, a couple marries in 2000. They have a 10yearold son and a 6yearold daughter and twelve years later the parties separated.
What is a typical arrangement for the children Ideally, parents will come to an agreement at this point regarding where the children live and how much time the children spend with each parent. But what if they can’t agree with these arrangements There are circumstances where the mother would not agree to arrangement whereby the children would spend equal time with both parents. Say, for example, if her child benefits were reduced, if father formed a new relationship with another partner, or she may just be unreasonable. So what can he do, if his ex partner decides to reduce contact with his children.
The first port of call is to seek legal advice. Here at Howells, we offer a 30 minute free consultation with a specialist solicitor. And there is no pressure to proceed after the initial interview No, there’s no pressure whatsoever to proceed and of course will be no costs involved. In our case study, the father has parental responsibility as he is married to the child’s mother so he would be responsible for looking after the child, providing a secure and stable home environment, choosing educational needs and appropriate schools, choosing the child’s name and consenting to any change of name,.
A Guide to Children Law What happens to the Children during a Divorce or Separation
And agreeing to medical treatment. These are just a few examples of what having parental responsibility means. What would the first step be for the father to reinstate the original agreement or to gain more access to his children Firstly, we would need to write to the mother setting out his proposals and requesting the previous arrangement be reinstated immediately. We would request the response from mother within 14 days and suggest that she seeks independent legal advice if she’s unsure about the contents. So is the best case scenario that the mother.
Responds and reinstates the previous arrangement Yes, but if this doesn’t occur or if she fails to respond then we would refer the matter to mediation. As of the 22nd April 2014 prior to making any application to court, a mediation intake assessment meeting known as MIAMS needs to have taken place. There are however some exemptions to this, such as domestic violence. Mediators are trained to help resolve a number of issues including children disputes. Who pays for this mediation If one party is eligible for legal help then this will cover both parties. However, generally.
It is the person making the referral to mediation that will bear the expense usually ranging from 75 to 150 pounds plus VAT. If further sessions are required, then the fees will increase and these should generally be split equally between the parties. And what if mediation is unsuccessful If mediation is deemed unsuccessful or unsuitable and no agreement can be reached, the next stage would be submitting an application to court, for a Child Arrangement Order. This order would define where the children live and who they spend time with.
Our last case study featured a married couple. Let’s discuss our next case study where the couple aren’t married. Does the father have parental responsibility for the children The law changed on the 1st December 2003. Prior to that even if a father is named on the Birth Certificate, if he is not married to the child’s mother then he does not acquire parental responsibility. After the 1st December 2003, if the father is named on the Birth Certificate, he does acquire parental responsibility. So how does a father acquire parental responsibility.
One option is for father and mother to sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement. This needs to be taken to the local family court and then lodged at the principal registry of the Family Division. The father will then acquire parental responsibility. But what if the mother refuses to sign the agreement Then we would help the father to make an application to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order. In addition, we could also decide at this stage whether an application needs to be made to the court for a Child Arrangement Order.
How would the Child Arrangement Order be judged This depends on each individual case and the age of the children. However, the court will need to consider the welfare checklist which explains that the children’s welfare is the paramount consideration. The court will also consider a number of factors and during the course of proceedings it is likely that parties will need to file statements setting out their case. How about if domestic violence has occurred during the course of the relationship Say if the husband or partner was the perpetrator. Does this change matters in terms of funding.
And the courts stance If the father has been violent towards the mother and he has been either cautioned, convicted or released on police bail within the last 24 months then the mother can technically be eligible for legal aid, dependent upon means also. Alternatively, if social services have become involved as a result of domestic violence and they’ve held a multi agency risk assessment conference the mother may also be eligible. Are there any other circumstances where a mother may qualify for legal aid Yes, if mother has attended a health professional and they’ve confirmed.
In writing that she’s attended as a victim of domestic violence then she could also be eligible for legal aid. Additionally, if she’s attended a refuge or an association such as Women’s Aid to seek help and assistance in respect of domestic violence, she could also be eligible. Finally, the court will want to ensure that the children are safe in father’s care and protected from any domestic abuse. Thank you Karis, for some excellent advice. If you think that you would benefit from a free 30 minute initial consultation then please go to.