Child custody and contact lawyers
1 of the UK's fastest growing law firms, we have more than 60 specialist family law solicitors in locations around England & Wales. We have the experience you need to deal with child custody, access or contact issues..
With divorce or separation, sorting out what's best for children can be tense and emotional. Child arrangements is the legal term now used at court instead of child custody. We will help you find the right way forward, applying to court if needed for a child arrangements order or, where necessary, applying to vary a child arrangements order or enforce compliance.
We can advise and assist on issues including :-
- Where the children should live on a day to day basis and any arrangements about staying with the other parent
- Where the other parent is failing to keep to the terms of an agreement about contact
- Where an application to court is needed to vary or enforce a child arrangement order.
- A specific issue application for example for an extended trip abroad with only 1 parent.
- Where you cannot agree with your ex-spouse about issues such as schooling.
To learn more about child arrangements or to talk through your situation, please get in touch.
Resolving child custody and contact by agreement
The starting point adopted by the courts is that it is generally in a child's best interests to maintain relations with both parents.Going to a full court hearing is often not the best option. A better approach is often to reach an agreement which can then be turned into a court order (known as a consent order). This can be enforced and applications made at court to vary arrangements if necessary in the future.
Negotiations on custody, access or contact can be directly between parents, through lawyers or formal mediation.
Where relations are amicable and there are strong relationships with both parents and the child, shared parenting, backed up by a shared parenting agreement, is a common solution. This does not mean an exact 50:50 arrangement in terms of where the child lives and time spent with each parent. Instead, shared parenting generally represents a commitment from both parents to the child spending a significant amount of time with both parents, a co-operative approach, consistency for the child and ways to avoid or resolve disagreements or conflict in the future.
Applying for a child arrangement order
The process for applying for a child arrangement order and the approach of the court, is broadly :-
- The court will start from the position that it is usually in a child's interests to spend time with both parents.
- Before applying you need to have tried mediating (if the other party refuses to comply you will then be able to apply to court).
- A witness statement will be needed in support of whatever you are asking teh court to order in your application.
- Given the importance of the court's decisions, the court may not make a final decision at the first hearing and may opt instead for an interim order.
- Despite the court process you can negotiate an agreed custody, access or contact outcome with the other parent at any stage until a final hearing and order..
- The court will base it's decision on the evidence and apply what is known as the welfare checklist. This is a list of considerations which include the child's physical and emotional needs, the age of the child (in some cases depending on age the court can hear from and take account of the child's wishes), the child's educational needs and stability and any risk of harm.
Contact Arrangements breach and enforcement
We represent clients where the other parent is not complying with an existing child arrangement agreement or order. Generally speaking, applying to the court should not be the first course of action, unless urgent. The court will expect attempts to be made to remind the other parent of their responsibilities to the child(ren) first before applying to the court.