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Children’s Issues

Children's issues

There are a number of issues you may be faced with when it comes to your children. You may have concerns over their safety while being looked after by a non-resident former partner or you may want to know your rights when it comes to arranging to see your children if you are the non-resident parent. If you are a grandparent looking for contact with a grandchild, please click here to visit our grandparents’ rights page.

April King understands that these are quite often challenging situations that require a lightness of touch when it comes to proceeding down the legal path.

We will work with you to complete a comprehensive assessment of your position and recommend which of our extensive panel of independent mediators, solicitors or barristers are best suited to your matter.

As a family firm you can be assured that we will give you the personal attention that this requires; understanding that the most important factor in all of this is your children.

Speak to us

We would be pleased to advise you, without any obligation. April King’s headquarters are in Nottingham and we have 28 offices across the Midlands. We would be happy to see you at your local office – just give us a call on 08700 120 130 to arrange a meeting, or email info@aprilking.co.uk

Child Issues: Separation or Divorce

Parent and child doing homework

When a couple separates or divorces, one of the most important considerations is the effect this has on the children. This can be a very emotional time for both parties but it is vital that the children’s needs are put first.

It is helpful if both parents are willing to negotiate and reach an agreement when it comes to the children – even if they cannot agree on other matters. The day-to-day living arrangements need to be decided (‘Residence’) and the amount of time the children will spend with the other parent (‘Contact’). In a perfect world, these arrangements will be agreed in private between you and your former partner so that the Courts do not need to be involved and your children are not subjected to unnecessary upset. If you are able to reach an agreement, you will then need to inform your lawyer if you would like it to be formalised.

If you cannot reach an agreement, speak to your lawyer. At this stage, the aim will still be to find a resolution that does not involve the Courts. You may wish to use collaborative law to help resolve your differences. In this process, each of you appoints your own choice of lawyer, but instead of conducting lengthy negotiations by letter or telephone, discussions take place over a series of four way meetings where you and your ex-partner meet, alongside your respective lawyers.

The Court’s approach is not to make an order in relation to the children unless an agreement cannot be reached between the parents. If the Courts have to get involve, they will make a decision based on a number of factors. They will take the children’s ages, wishes and feelings into account, together with the ability of each parent to meet the children’s needs, and any other matters they  believe to be relevant. Sometimes they will want to see a Welfare Report which is a report that considers all of these aspects, prepared by an expert who deals with this type of case on a daily basis. The expert will usually visit the children in their present home and if they are old enough, ask questions about how they feel. The report can take as many as 12 weeks to complete.

Based on the evidence presented to it, the Court can decide where the children will live and how much contact each parent will have. In all cases the best interests of the children are the Court’s primary concern.

Child issues: Separation of unmarried parents

Dad and daughter doing homework

Where parents are unmarried, the mother automatically gains parental responsibility. In England and Wales, the father also automatically gains parental responsibility if he is named on the child’s Birth Certificate if the child’s birth was registered after December 2003. The rules are different for Scotland and Northern Ireland – click here to read them.

If a father does not have parental responsibility, he can either enter into an agreement with the mother, or apply to the Court for an order.

Parental responsibility means that you are responsible for:

  • providing a home for your child
  • protecting and maintaining your child
  • disciplining your child
  • choosing and providing for your child’s education
  • agreeing to your child’s medical treatment
  • naming your child and agreeing to any change of name
  • looking after your child’s property

However, note that you will be responsible for supporting your child financially, even if you do not have parental responsibility. Note also that the fact you have parental responsibility for a child does not necessarily give you a right to contact with them – although the other parent is obliged to update you about their well-being and progress.

In relation to contact, the same principles apply as set out above for married couples.

Child issues: Keeping children safe

Mum and baby

Children must be protected from harmful conflicts in the home which may or may not be physical. If there has been physical violence or abuse, it will be necessary to consider whether it is in the child’s best interests to have contact with the violent or abusive parent, and what safeguards can be put in place If necessary. If you are experiencing domestic violence, it is imperative for your own safety and that of your children that you get help immediately. Call the National Domestic Violence Helpline for advice initially on 0800 2000 247. If lines are busy on the Helpline, keep trying. Quieter periods are after 4pm, evenings, nights and weekends. In an emergency, always call the police by dialling 999. Once you have moved yourself and your children to a safe place, call us for legal advice.

Child issues: Care proceedings

Woman with baby and health visitor

It can be a daunting prospect to have social services involved in the care of your children and many parents feel bewildered by the process. In this situation, specialist legal advice on your position can be of real help.

If a Social Worker is concerned about the care of your children, they will usually convene a Child Protection Conference whose job is to decide whether your children’s names should be placed on the Child Protection Register under a certain category. The categories include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Physical neglect
  • Sexual abuse
  • Failure to thrive (the child is not growing and developing as they should)
  • Emotional abuse

A plan will be implemented to reduce the risks to your children. If the Social Worker/Local Authority have serious concerns or if urgent circumstances arise, they can apply to the Court for a Care or Supervision Order. This can only be made if the Court is satisfied that:

(a) that the child concerned is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm; and

(b) that the harm, or likelihood of harm, is attributable to-

(i) the care given to the child, or likely to be given to him if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give him; or

(ii) the child’s being beyond parental control.

Given the gravity of the decisions facing the Child Protection Conference, it is essential that you have proper advice and representation at every step of the way. We can advise at the Child Protection Conference and provide representation for you in any subsequent care proceedings. Public funding (legal aid) is available for parents with parental responsibility.

Sometimes the result of the proceedings is that a Care Order is made. This will give the Local Authority parental responsibility for your child, allowing them to decide where your child will live, how much contact you can have with them and other important matters. The Order lasts until your child turns 18 although it can be discharged sooner, if circumstances should change.

A Care Order does not automatically mean your child will be removed from your care. The Local Authority may decide it would be in the best interests of your child to stay with you. It is also possible that a residential assessment is arranged, to help tackle any areas of concern. It is important that you obtain legal advice and assistance as early as possible in the process.

Child issues: Adoption

Dad and step daughter

There are a number of circumstances were parents need to know their legal rights in relation to adoption. You may be considering adopting a child through the Local Authority, or as a step parent, you may wish to adopt your spouse or partner’s children. This would give you parental responsibility of the child.

Our panel of independent solicitors would  be pleased to discuss the procedure with you and to advise you further regarding the law. If adoption is not appropriate there are alternative options to consider, such as Special Guardianship or Child Arrangement Orders. Special Guardianship gives legal status for non parents (including parental responsibility) who would like to care for a child or young person in a long term secure placement. Child Arrangement Orders set out

(a) with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact, and

(b) when a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person.

Speak to us

We would be pleased to advise you, without any obligation. April King’s headquarters are in Nottingham and we have 28 offices across the Midlands. We would be happy to see you at your local office – just give us a call on 08700 120 130 to arrange a meeting, or email info@aprilking.co.uk

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