There will be many decisions to make involving your children following your divorce or relationship breakdown. Almost all of these choices will require some level of communication and agreement with the other parent. Communication and compromise is key, both for the children’s sake and for your own.
Relationship breakdowns and separation can have a significant impact on children. Not only are they likely to be affected emotionally by the conflict, but they often face significant disruption too: new living arrangements, a new home, a new school, separation form a parent – the list goes on.
There will be many decisions to make your ex-partner concerning your children. Almost all of these choices will require some level of communication and agreement with the other parent. Communication and compromise is the key to successful parenting following divorce or separation.
Fortunately, most parents do reach an amicable agreement concerning their children. These arrangements can be converted into a binding ‘consent order’ if approved by the court. Doing so make it easier for parents to take court action in the future if their relationship with the other parent deteriorates or problems arise.
Of course, compromise does not mean being a doormat or tolerating bad behaviour by the other parent. Sometimes it may be necessary to involve the family courts if you believe that parent is not acting in your child’s best interests. Thankfully, family law provides tools for just that purpose: a range of court orders suitable for different situations. Most are issued under the authority of the key legislation concerning children – the Children Act 1989. The majority also concern ‘parental responsibility’. This is the legal status of being a parent: those who hold it are entitled to have a say in significant issues concerning the child, even if they do not live with them.
Let’s look at some of the most commonly sought family law orders concerning children:
Family law orders
Prohibited steps order
This is an order that forbids a parent from taking an action that would not be in the child’s best interests – for example, taking them abroad without consent and thereby separating them from the other parent.
Specific issue order
An order addressing a particular issue that is disputed between the parents – for example, whether they should attend a particular school.
Parental responsibility order
Unmarried fathers can apply for this if the mother of their child refuses to allow them to formally registered as the father – i.e. acquire parental responsibility. Unmarried fathers acquire this via inclusion on the child’s birth certificate or by signing a parental responsibility agreement with the mother.
Step parental responsibility order
As the name implies, this order is a declaration that the step parent of a child should be given parental responsibility. A court might issue one if a biological parent cannot fulfil a caring role for any of various possible reasons: their whereabouts are unknown, they have a history of domestic abuse, they are in prison, etc.
Declaration of parentage order
This order is a formal declaration is a formal declaration that a particular man is the biological father of child. It is sought when there is some uncertainty or dispute over over which person holds that role.
Removal from jurisdiction order
This order grants permission for a parent to take a child out of the country, away from the jurisdiction of England and Wales, either permanently or for a holiday or similar limited period. Typically, a parent ‘with care’ – the one who looks after the child on a day-to-day basis – will apply for such an order when the other parent is opposed to them leaving. This may because they fear the other parent will not return or are concerned their relationship with the other child may be damaged.
Child arrangements order
Perhaps the most fundamental of the family orders listed here, a child arrangements order is a legally binding declaration concerning living arrangements for the child or children of a divorcing couple. They state which parent the child or children will live with, and how often and for how long they will see the other parent or parental figure. Other important issues might be included too, such as the payment of child support.
Child arrangement orders are normally issued when parents disagree over these key issues and the family courts have intervened to protect the interests of the child.
This is a declaration that a parent must be allowed to see their child for a defined amount of time, even if the parent with care does not want this to happen.
In addition to the basic orders listed above, parents can also apply to ‘vary’ (alter) previously issued orders when circumstances change, or apply to enforce orders if the other parent is not cooperating or meeting their obligations.
All these orders relate to ‘private’ family law, meaning legal disputes between individuals, rather than ‘public’ family law, which involves authorities or the state. The primary example of the latter is the process of removing a child from an abusive or neglectful home and taking them into the care system.
If you are in dispute with your ex concerning parenting arrangements, contact us today to arrange a free consultation.