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NEWS DIVORCE FINANCIAL MATTERS CHILDREN COHABITATION

Resolving Children Issues

15th April, 2014

When a couple with children separate and/or divorce they must consider the arrangements for the children.

Research has shown that children normally cope with divorce better if the parents are able to co-operate and if the children maintain a good ongoing relationship with both parents. Above all, children need reassurance that both parents love and care for them and will always be there for them.

We do everything possible to help clients reach agreement and we encourage parents to use Mediation or Collaborative Law in appropriate cases.

The arrangements made will of course depend on the circumstances of the particular family and the needs of the children. There are no fixed rules. However, it is important that the parents are sufficiently flexible to be able to accommodate the changing needs of the children as they get older.

Sometimes it is not possible to reach agreement and it is necessary to seek the assistance of the Court. The Children Act provides that in all such cases the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration. In determining what is in the best interests of the child the Court takes into account the following factors, known as the “welfare checklist”:

In the more difficult cases an independent Child and Family Reporter (from CAFCASS) will act as the “eyes and ears” of the Court and will prepare a report, after interviewing the parties, the children and other relevant people.

The Court does not discriminate between mothers and fathers on the basis of gender. However, an important consideration will be who has been the primary carer. This is often the mother, although increasing numbers of fathers are assuming this role. The Court will be reluctant to disrupt this primary care, particularly in the case of young children. In recent years it has become increasingly common for parents to have shared care arrangements.

We will do everything possible to assist you to resolve children issues in a calm, constructive and child-focused way.

Parental Responsibility

15th April, 2011

The concept of “parental responsibility” is extremely important in the Children Act 1989, the statute which governs the relationship between parents and children. It is important to remember that parents have “responsibilities” rather than “rights” and parents’ responsibilities have to be exercised in the best interests of the child.

So, what is meant by “parental responsibility”?

It is a wide concept which covers all the normal incidents of bringing up a child and the decisions that have to be taken on behalf of the child as part of that process. It covers, for example, decisions relating to religion, education, medical treatment, applying for a passport, taking the child abroad for holidays or to live, and so on.

Who has parental responsibility?

It is important to note the people who are not on this list, for example, some unmarried fathers, step-parents and grandparents. Practical difficulties can arise when a person without parental responsibility provides childcare on a regular basis. Specific legal advice is needed in this situation.

An unmarried father without parental responsibility can acquire it in one of two ways:

At any one time there may be a number of people with parental responsibility for a child. Parental responsibility is retained until the child reaches the age of 18. However, as the child gets older, and particularly during the teenage years, the decision making power of the parents has to yield to the child’s ability to make his or her own decisions. The extent to which this is the case depends on the nature of the issue involved and the age of the child.

When those with parental responsibility are unable to agree, there is considerable guidance in the case law as to how parental responsibility should be exercised. The test, as always in children matters, is to ascertain what is in the best interests of the child. If disagreement arises it is important to seek specific legal advice.