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Legal advice on child residence, contact and other arrangements.
|- Expert Legal Advice|
|- Child Court Orders|
|Our Areas Of Expertise|
- Residence (Who the
children will live with)
- Contact (How often
you can see your child)
- Apply To Take
- Prevent a Planned
- Dealing With
|Child Arrangements - Contact|
Deciding how much time the child will spend with each parent
The arrangements for seeing a child if you are a parent have changed significantly in the past few years. The previous terminology was having contact whereas now you apply for a child arrangements order to spend time with a child. The court is now committed to carrying out initial safeguarding checks to ensure that the time spent is safe and secure.
The starting point is that it is in a child's best interests to spend time with both parents. Since 2008 the court have tightened up the procedure if the parent with care stops the non-resident parent seeing the child. There is now an enforcement procedure which can lead to the resident parent being fined, doing unpaid work in the community or in very rare cases being jailed if they fail to have a reasonable excuse for not allowing the child to spend time with the non-resident parent in breach of an existing children act order allowing the same.
The starting point if a dispute arises between parents as to the amount of time that the non-resident parent should spend with the child is for the parties to attend mediation voluntarily. If the non-resident parent has tried to get the other parent to attend mediation without success then he/she needs to attend a mediation and information and assessment meeting (MIAM) before being able to issue court proceedings.
If the non-resident parent does not know the locality of the child then an application can be made to court to try and locate the child. If the locality of the child is known it makes sense to issue in the locality of where the child lives as opposed to where the non-resident parent lives. The process consists of an initial hearing called a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA) a second hearing called a Dispute Resolution Appointment (DRA) and a Final Hearing.
Most cases do not go to a final hearing. This is because the parties can agree matters at the first hearing where often a court welfare officer and/or a mediator are present or after a court welfare officer's report has been obtained the parties agree to settle as per the recommendations of the court welfare officer.
Case Study A - Father's supervised contact increased by court to almost 50:50
We acted for a father who was seeking to spend time with a child. His child was taken out of the jurisdiction against his wishes. The mother was ordered to return the child pursuant to the Hague Convention.
When the mother and child (aged 3) returned to England the father was prevented by the mother from spending time with the child apart from times when the mother sought to supervise the same. This understandably increased the tension between the parties and did not make for the child enjoying a meaningful time with the father.
The parties went to mediation. The mother was not willing to see beyond the father having supervised contact with the child despite the only reasons given by her being that the child was too young to extend the time spent. The matter was listed before a district judge who decided that the time spent with the father needed to be extended.
A separate application had been made for an independent social worker to assist in the arrangements for the father spending time with the child. Whilst this was an expense it was pivotal in providing indpendent written evidence that the time spent between the father and child was of good quality and needed to be extended. There was an exchange of witness statements.
The judge decided that he had the power to hear matters without hearing from the mother or father and he made an order whereby the child now spends 10 weeks holiday time a year with the father and 5 nights out of 14 nights during term time as the child is now at school.
The father was delighted as he was concerned that making an application to court would initially stop his time with his child due to the mother's reaction. This did not happen and the father now feels that the child benefits from spending significant time with both his parents.
Case Study B - Grandparents awarded contact with grandchild
We acted for a paternal grandmother. Her son i.e. the father had tragically died in a road accident. He was at the time separated from the mother. The mother was in a new relationship and when the father was alive their relationship in the respect of the child was not ideal.
On the death of the father the mother was not keen for the child to spend significant time with the paternal grandmother. The mother was also not willing to go to mediation to try and resolve matters.
This led to the grandmother making an application at short notice. As the child's grandparent the grandmother had to make 2 applications - 1. An application for leave to make the application to see the grandchild and 2. The actual application.
The court effectively screens the quality of an application. If it decides that there is an arguable case in favour of the person making the application it will allow it. In this case the paternal grandmother was able to issue the application. The court ordered the court welfare officer's report. It also ordered interim time for the child to spend with the grandparent.
The court decided that the grandchild would benefit from seeing the grandparent especially in these sad circumstances. The court at the final hearing allowed the grandparent to spend time including staying time with the grandchild. The client was happy as she had previously seen the grandchild when he was with the the father and she wanted the security of a court order to allow this continue.
Expert family lawyers who specialise in issues relating to children
Our services are delivered by highly experienced solicitors who are specialists in child related family law matters and capable of handling complex cases particularly those with an international aspect.
Brethertons are a successful law firm with an excellent reputation. They are highly rated in the Legal 500 and Chambers directories. They have grown rapidly in the last few years and now have over 250 employees. They have a large and experienced family law department that is capable of handling complex cases involving divorce, finances and child contact/residence issues. Brethertons are fully accredited by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and follow their code of conduct.
Simon Craddock is the partner responsible for child related family law matters at Brethertons. Simon is a specialist in international child abduction law. He is one of only a handful of qualified lawyers in the UK who is a member of the International Child Abduction Hague Convention and Wardship panel. Simon is one of the few recommended solicitors endorsed by Reunite and ICACU. His family law expertise includes ancillary relief matters, and he has a deep understanding of international family law. He recently became a member of the International Bar Association.
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