Following a family breakdown, clients first concern is often what will happen to their children as a result of the divorce or separation. We advise our clients on the options available to them as parents and help clients to resolve any contested issues in relation to their children, in particular issues around residence and contact. In cases involving children, court action should be used as a last resort and the welfare of the children will remain the paramount consideration.
We understand that a Court imposed arrangement is not always in the best interests of our client and their children but in some circumstances a court process is necessary. We try to encourage agreement as soon as possible in order to avoid distress to the parents and to their children, although we also ensure that our client’s arguments and concerns are put forward and addressed When Court Proceedings are necessary we use our experience to guide you through the process and ensure you have a robust representation. At Harper & Odell we ensure to achieve the best outcome for you & your family.
The general principle behind the court’s approach is to investigate what is in the court’s best interests and how this can be met.
Parents can agree arrangements but others may benefit from attending mediation or negotiating through solicitors. In some cases, an application to the court may be appropriate. In cases where parents can agree arrangements we can discuss preparing a parenting agreement in setting out any agreed arrangements or we could even prepare the necessary documentation required to submit to the Court to obtain a Court Order in the terms agreed by the parents.
A common dispute amongst separated or divorced parents is disagreement over where the children should live. Another common issue is contact. The courts can also make orders on other aspects of the children lives such as schooling although this is less common.
We can represent clients in difficult and intractable cases concerning children issues such as obtaining the following Court Orders which are the various court orders the Court can make in relation to children:
- Child Arrangements Order, They decide who the children should live with and/or with whom the child will spend time with and when;
- Specific Issue Orders ( such as what school the child should attend)
- Prohibited Steps Orders ( an order preventing something such as removing the child from the country)
Parental Responsibility Issues
Another important area of law regarding children is that of ‘parental responsibility’. It is important for every parent to know what legal rights & responsibilities they have in relation to their children and this can become particularly important when parents separate.
When a parent has Parental Responsibility for a child they have the right and responsibility to be involved in the important decisions that relate to that child. For example, education, religion and medical care.
A mother automatically acquires parental responsibility from birth of a child. The father will automatically acquire PR at birth if married to the mother at the time of birth. Unmarried fathers will acquire parental responsibility if their name is registered on the child’s birth certificate.
If a father doesn’t have Parental Responsibility for his children, then he should certainly take steps to obtain it by;
- By entering into a Parental Responsibility agreement with the mother.
- By applying to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order.
At Harper & Odell we can assist with such applications and we can represent parents who have issues in relation to actually exercising their parental responsibility.
Relocation/Leave to Remove applications
It is now increasingly common for one parent to want to take their child to live abroad with them either at the time of separation or later on. But choosing this significantly separate path to your ex-spouse can be complicated when children are involved. It is often the case that one parent disputes the idea of their children moving overseas and withholds their consent.
Ultimately, oral or preferably written consent must be obtained from the party remaining in the country where the child originally resided ( often referred to as the ‘left-behind parent’).
A parent needs the permission of the other parent, all persons with parental responsibility for the child or a Court Order to take the child to live abroad. This type of court application is known as a ‘relocation application’ or an application for ‘leave to remove’.
If the dispute did escalate and was taken to Court, the person seeking to relocate would need to provide legitimate reasons as to why they wanted the child to be taken abroad and for the parent at risk of being left behind, why the child should stay put. The Court will base its decision on the best interests of the child.
With knowledge and familiarity with issues regarding relocation we can advise you of the best way to pursue your case, both for your good and the good of your child. We can provide you with robust court representation in the event Court action is appropriate.
We can act for either party in such cases.