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Children law

Children law covers lots of areas, from divorce to disputes over child arrangements to guardianships to the rights of grandparents and more. What's important is to understand the welfare of a child is the primary concern of the Court. If you have a legal issue concerning your child, make sure you use an accredited children lawyer who is a specialist in dealing with the areas of the law related to children.

There are a number of things to consider when it comes to children; these are some of the questions most people ask:

I want to apply for custody

Technically, there’s no such thing as ‘custody’ anymore. What the court deals with now are Child Arrangements Orders (which recently replaced residence and contact orders). The order regulates the arrangements relating to whom a child is to live with and where and who the child spends time with or otherwise has contact with. Prior to any orders being made, providing they have parental responsibility, both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for the children.

How do I get full custody?

You can apply to the court for a Child Arrangement Order, but this would usually be for a child whom you have parental responsibility for or a strong connection with. The order ensures that the child’s living arrangements are settled in the longer term.

My ex isn’t paying any maintenance so I’ve stopped them from seeing our child

These are two separate matters. Failure to pay child maintenance doesn’t prevent a parent from spending time with a child; that’s determined by the court in accordance with what’s in the best interest of the child.

The child says they don’t want to go, what do I do?

First of all you should try to establish why the child doesn’t want to see the other parent. Usually the court will recommend a child spends time with both parents unless they’re at risk of harm. The risk of harm from a parent can be managed by supervised contact or by arranging contact to take place in a neutral setting. If the child doesn’t like the current arrangements try and think of alternatives that they may be happier with.

What is parental responsibility?

It’s all the rights, responsibilities and duties that a parent has to ensure the welfare of their child. In addition to caring for the child on a day-to-day basis, parental responsibility also includes more considered decisions such as choosing the religion and education of the child and even the right to provide permission for medical treatment.

I want to take the child away, do I need permission?

In order to take a child away from England or Wales you need the permission of every parent with parental responsibility. This means you have to inform the other parent of your plans to avoid any unnecessary worry or confusion, but if the other parent won’t provide their agreement you may need to make an application to the court. 

Unless there’s a serious concern that the child is going to be abducted, the court is unlikely to prevent a child being taken on holiday. If you have a Child Arrangement Order that states your child lives with you, you can take them out of England and Wales for up to four weeks without requiring a court order.

I can’t see my child, what should I do?

If you’re being prevented from seeing your child, the first step is to try to discuss why you’re being prevented from seeing them with your ex-partner. If you’re unable to resolve the issue, it might be worth getting the help of a third party or family member, but do avoid asking the child what’s going on as they may feel they’re caught in the middle. If talking directly to your ex-partner doesn’t help, you may need to seek legal advice to consider your options.

Can I change my child’s name?

Yes, you can, but if the other parent has parental responsibility for the child you’ll need to get their consent first.

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