Following a relationship breakdown issues may arise regarding arrangements for your children. One of the main questions may be which parent should the child live with and how often will they see the other parent. The terminology ‘contact’ and ‘residence’ might sound familiar to you however; from 22nd April 2014 these orders have been replaced with Child Arrangement Orders. Such Orders will deal with where your child lives, when your child spends time with each parent and when and what other type of contact should take place.
Disagreements may arise relating to the exercise of an aspect of parental responsibility for your child e.g. changing a child’s name, which school they should attend, whether a particular course of medical treatment should be administered, religious beliefs or whether the child can be taken abroad. In the event that an agreement cannot be reached on any of these matters, an application can be made to the Court for a Specific Issue Order.
Situations may also arise where one parent wants to prevent the other parent from carrying out certain events or acts in respect of the child e.g. prevent the child from having certain medical treatment, prevent the other parent from removing the child from the jurisdiction on a temporary or permanent basis. In these circumstances, an application can be made to the Court for what is termed a Prohibited Steps Order.
Parental responsibility refers to the duties, responsibilities and rights a parent has for a child. If as a father you are not married to the mother or are not registered on the child’s birth certificate after 1st December 2003, you do not have legal parental responsibility for the child. If the mother is not agreeable to enter into a parental responsibility agreement with you then you have the option to apply to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order.
In an attempt to move away from the court arena it is now a general requirement to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before an application to the Court is made in respect of child arrangements. At this meeting you will be given information about mediation and whether it would be suitable for your particular circumstances. There are limited circumstances where the requirement to attend a MIAM is not necessary e.g. domestic violence, child protection or emergency orders.
If you do proceed with an application to the Court in respect of any of the above orders, the Court’s paramount consideration will be the child’s welfare and regard will be had to the following:
- The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding);
- The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs;
- The likely effect on the child of any change in circumstances;
- The child’s age, sex, background and any characteristics which the court considers relevant;
- Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
- How capable are the parents and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, of meeting the child’s needs;
- The range of powers available to the court under the Children Act in the proceedings in question.
If you would like any further information or advice about any of the orders mentioned here or the procedure to follow, please visit our contact page.