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One of the most important aspects of managing any separation, whether you are married, cohabiting or simply in a relationship is keeping the impact upon your children to a minimum.
Recognising this is a highly sensitive problem, wherever possible and appropriate, we seek to encourage parents to agree matters outside of Court using alternative resolution methods such as mediation or a collaborative approach.
Both parents agree to attend mediation. Here you would attend a meeting with a trained mediator who would help you both to come to an agreement in relation to your children. While we don’t offer this service we can recommend trusted mediators.
We understand that as parents when you make the hard decision to separate, you want to reach a solution that puts your children needs and interests first. Experience has shown us, that for a child the best outcome is when their parents work together to ensure contact with both parents is maintained and Court avoided.
Only as a last resort would we recommend the assistance of the Court to enable you to reach an agreement regarding your children. To initiate most children proceedings there is a Court fee of £215. the Court's primary concern is the welfare of any children and so they will be guided by what is in their best interests using the 'Welfare Checklist'. A Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (CAFCASS) officer is likely to be appointed. They are typically trained social workers who will assist the Court by meeting with both parents and the children and putting forward their views on what is in the best interests of the children.
Under the Children Act 1989 it is possible to bring a variety of applications:
Residence and Contact - Formerly known as Custody and Access, are best used when you cannot decide where your children should live or how much time they should spend with the other parent.
Specific Issue Order or Prohibited Steps Order – For specific issues which you cannot agree on such as schooling, medical treatment or perhaps holidays abroad then these orders can prevent a certain act or event from taking place.
Parental Responsibility - This is the right and responsibility to make important decisions about your child's life such as schooling, medical treatment, religion etc. If you do not have Parental Responsibility then you can apply to the Court to obtain this if the mother will not agree to enter into a Parental Responsibility Agreement.
Removal from Jurisdiction - If you wish to move to a different location within the UK which would mean changing the children's schools then you should obtain the consent of all people with Parental Responsibility or permission from the Court. If you wish to move to another country and did so without agreement of the other parent or Court Order then you would be committing the offence of child abduction.