When parties are separating, the biggest concern that many people have is about what is going to happen to their children following the separation.
It is a very emotional subject to talk about and even more so at a time when emotions are already running high.
If parents are able to discuss directly with each other about the arrangements for the children this is the very best outcome for the children. It allows for a plan to be made which is child focused and works for both parents and the children.
In the event that parents are unable to reach an agreement, parents can be assisted by either a mediator or a solicitor.
The parents can attend mediation to discuss the arrangements for their children and the mediator will remain entirely independent but will ensure that the discussion remains focused on the agreed issues. Mediation can be a very useful tool to talk about all aspects of parenting that may arise in the future. In some circumstances it may even be appropriate to involve your children in some family mediation.
If mediation is not successful, or not appropriate, the parent can seek legal advice from a solicitor. The solicitor’s aim is still to reach an agreement directly with the other parent or their solicitor without needing to apply to Court.
On some occasions, where agreement cannot be reached via any other route, it becomes necessary to make an application to Court for a Child Arrangements Order. It is however necessary for the parent making the application to have first attended a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (M.I.A.M).
The Child Arrangements Order will detail whom the children should live with and when and how they should spend time with the other parent. An organisation called CAFCASS will automatically be involved following a court application to inform the Court initially as to whether there are any safeguarding concerns regarding the children.
A Child Arrangements Order is a Court Order and therefore if not complied with it is capable of enforcement. This is particularly helpful in situations where a parent is worried because the other parent has historically refused to allow them to spend any time with the children. Should either parent wish to change the Court Order, then it would be necessary to agree the variation with the other parent or to apply back to Court to vary the Order.
It may also be necessary to seek advice regarding your children in situations such as changing their name, changing their schools, preventing a child leaving the country or relocation in the UK or abroad.
In situations where you are facing the involvement of Social Services, seeking legal advice as soon as possible is vital. Members of our team have the experience and expertise to offer you the support you need. Two of our solicitors sit on the Childcare Panel. We offer legal aid in cases which involve the local authorities.
If you are considering adopting, you need to ensure that you are informed about the process and your legal responsibilities. Our team have experience in this specialist area of law and can offer you the support you need. From general background guidance about adoption, to expert ongoing legal advice. For an overview, we recommend the information provided by the BAAF (British Association for Adoption and Fostering).
Please contact one of our family specialists in our Newbury, Thatcham or Maidenhead offices below to discuss your situation.