As experts in family law, we’re used to dealing with people facing highly emotional and stressful situations. When dispensing advice on topics such as divorce, adoption and wills and probate we always take the time and trouble to help our clients deal with the stress of such life-changing events. This is particularly relevant when dealing with cases of child custody advice.
When a marriage ends and a couple split up there is bound to be an emotional upheaval. With the best will in the world it can be difficult to keep the discussions about the split on an amicable and reasoned basis. Complications such as disagreements about assets and the reasons for the divorce can often escalate and lead to court appearances rather than the preferable option of an informal arrangement.
When giving child custody advice to our clients we always concentrate on helping them find a way of delivering the solution which is best for the child or children involved. This will mean deciding issues such as access, maintenance and contact, although these terms, like the phrase ‘custody’ itself, have changed in recent years.
As stated, our child custody advice will always be to work for a negotiated agreement. We understand how difficult this can sometimes seem in the aftermath of a separation, particularly if the split has been bitter or difficult, but we combine legal expertise with emotional support in an attempt to steer our clients through the process.
The first thing to understand is that the Children Act 1989 replaced the term ‘custody’ with that of ‘Residence’ and more recently with “Child Arrangements Order”.
The Children Act 1989 created Parental Responsibility – a legal recognition of rights and responsibility. Both married parents have parental responsibility for their children. Unmarried mums and dads who are named on the birth certificate automatically have it, otherwise it is obtained by agreement or court order. It recognises that the parent the child doesn’t live with still has rights and responsibilities for that child.
In simple terms, the agreement which you have to come up with in terms of child custody advice will encompass where the children will live and when they will spend time with each parent. The kind of issues which you consider when making these decisions should include factors like how much time each parent has to be able to spend with the children, which parent lives in the most convenient location (i.e. closest to school), and whether these circumstances are likely to change in the future. An example of the kind of change which would impact upon a child arrangement agreement would be if either parent is due to start a new job which would involve them moving a considerable distance.
It may also be necessary to draw up a plan for future contact between the children and the parent they will not be living with. If the relationship has broken down to the degree that the two parents no longer wish to have contact in person or over the phone, then you may opt to use messaging, emails or an intermediary such as another family member.
The precise issues to be included in any agreement will depend upon the personal circumstances of the relationship, and our experts will have the experience and know-how needed to deliver advice which is perfectly suited to every client’s individual situation. In order to minimise the chances of argument reigniting in the future, it may be useful to draw up a written plan which will set out the details of the agreement and give both parties something to refer to. If you feel you would like the extra reassurance of an agreement that is legally binding, we can put the details down as a ‘consent order’ which a court will then recognise for a fee, as long as the judge feels it is in the interests of the children.
If you require child custody advice then please call us on 0161 429 7251 or email us at [email protected]. We’ll provide a 20 minute appraisal free of charge, and if you want to find out more we’ll provide a first appointment for a fixed fee. If you want to find out more about our charging system then please take a look here.