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Children Arrangements

(Children arrangements has previously been known as child contact, child residence, child living arrangements and child custody.)

Following a family breakdown, the needs of any children involved are of the utmost importance. The law in relation to children is clearly based on what is in their best interests, rather than what is in the best interests of the parents.

At SAS Daniels we are specialists in dealing with matters involving children following a divorce or separation. We have an experienced team who can help to determine who the child will live with, what time they will spend with the non-resident parent and all other issues relating to the children.

The legal system in England prefers and encourages voluntary agreements between parents rather than court imposed orders. It is widely accepted that voluntary agreements are more likely to succeed in the long term. The courts will usually only become involved if both parents are unable to reach a suitable arrangement which is in the best interest of their child.

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Determining who the child will live with

This is sometimes referred to as ‘child custody’ or ‘child residence’. It is of the highest importance for any children involved to have a stable and safe place to live.

In many cases the children will live primarily with one parent and the other will have ‘contact’ at regular, pre-arranged intervals, for example at weekends. One of our experienced family solicitors will help you to negotiate the most suitable arrangements for your family.

A number of factors will be taken into account when determining the arrangements, including:

In some cases it is possible for parents to have shared care of the children. For this arrangement to succeed it has to be practical for the children to move regularly between homes without it being too disruptive and unsettling for them.

Unfortunately, disputes between parents about the arrangements for the children are common. Each parent will be encouraged to try and reach a compromise on the issues in dispute. It is often possible to seek the assistance of a trained Family Mediator who can help the parents discuss their views openly and try to reach agreement between themselves.

We will advise you as to whether Family Mediation is a suitable option for you and we can help arrange Mediation for you if required.

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Determining child contact with the non-resident parent

The law in England generally accepts that it is in the interests of children to have regular contact with both parents, unless special circumstances apply.

Contact with your child can be in many forms, such as days spent with the non-resident parent at the weekend, or evenings during the week. Children should also be encouraged to spend long periods with the non-resident parent, to include overnight stays or extended stays during school holidays.

It is beneficial to work out a routine for contact with your children which is regular and which suits the needs of both the parents and the children, in order to maintain ongoing contact with the non-resident parent.

It is up to the parents to agree a routine that suits everyone involved. In our experience, agreements reached between the parents succeed better than those imposed by the court. There are no specific rules laid down in law as to how much contact is allowed by each parent.

Usually, child contact arrangements can be worked out by a process of negotiation between the parents, with the help of their solicitors where required. If you are not able to reach a compromise between yourselves, then the courts can impose a Child Arrangements Order that specifies exactly what time the children will spend with each parent.

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What if an agreement for child arrangements cannot be reached by negotiation?

If negotiations between the parents are not effective or possible, then Family Mediation is the next option. If Family Mediation does not work then it may be necessary to go to court to get the issues of child residence and child contact resolved.

A family judge can make a number of ‘Orders’, which are directives that must be followed, stating what the arrangements for the children will be.

Common court orders which can be made are:

Child Arrangements Order (Replaces the previous Child Residence Order and Child Contact Order)

A Child Arrangements Order outlines who the children will live with once the separation is made permanent. It is possible to have a shared Child Arrangements Order which will specify the periods that the children spend with each parent. A Child Arrangements Order also specifies how often the non-resident parent will see the children. It will clearly outline when and for how long contact will take place. It is the duty of the resident parent to promote contact with the other parent and to encourage the children to attend.

Parental Responsibility Orders

Parental responsibility is a legal phrase used to define who has the rights and obligations to make decisions that affect a child’s life. A court will generally grant a Parental Responsibility Order to a parent unless there is sufficient reason not to.

Please see our separate section on parental responsibility for more information.

Specific Issue Order

A Specific Issue Order is where you need the court’s assistance in making a key decision about your child’s life. This can include things such as which school your children will attend, what religion they will be brought up in or which surname they will be known by.

Prohibited Steps Order

A Prohibited Steps Order can be granted to prevent a parent from taking a particular step in relation to the children, for example taking the children out of the country without the consent of the other parent or the court.

If you would like to discuss an issue with one of our family law solicitors, please contact us and one of our specialist team will be happy to advise you.

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