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Children Law (Private)

We recognise the breakdown of a marriage or separation can be particularly emotional and stressful when the arrangements for the care of children need to be considered. We offer straight forward advice and support to help you make informed decisions in the best interests of your children.

What is a child arrangements order?

If you are unable to agree the arrangements for the care of your child(ren), you can make an application to the court for a child arrangements order (CAO) to regulate those arrangements as to with whom the child shall live, spend time or otherwise have contact.

Contact simply means the time that a child spends with an adult. There are several ways that contact may take place and this will depend on any issues and the circumstances in the case but can include, direct contact, overnight staying contact, supervised contact and indirect contract through letters and cards.

There is a general presumption that it is in a child’s best interests to have a relationship with both parents. In rare circumstances, where the best interests of the child dictate, the court can order that there is no contact.

Our expert lawyers will be able to provide you with advice based upon the particular circumstances of your case.

How do I get parental responsibility?

For children born after 1 December 2003 where the parents were not and have not been married, it is possible to re-register the child’s birth to add the father’s name to the birth certificate. This gives the father parental responsibility.

Parental responsibility can be granted to a father by written agreement with the child’s mother. A step-parent can also acquire parental responsibility by agreement.

If agreement is not possible, a father can apply to court for a parental responsibility order. The child’s mother can oppose the application and put forward her reasons for doing so. When considering whether to allow a father to have parental responsibility, a judge will consider the father’s commitment and attachment to the child, and whether his reasons for applying are genuine. Generally, courts tend to award parental responsibility unless the father poses a risk to his child or to the mother.

A successful application to court for a special guardianship order or a parental order after surrogacy will also automatically grant parental responsibility. Parental responsibility may also be granted when the court makes a child arrangements order.

Who can change a child’s name?

A child acquires their name when it is registered shortly after their birth by their mother or father, or someone else with parental responsibility. The birth certificate is the official record of the child’s name, as well as their date of birth and who their parents are.

It is possible to change a child’s forename or surname, or add more names if you obtain the consent of other people with parental responsibility. If consent is refused, you can make an application to the court asking for an order giving permission for the change. If a name has been changed without your consent, you can ask the court to change it back. The court will consider what is best for the child when deciding whether to allow or undo a name change.

Specific issue orders

A specific issue order determines a particular question in connection with a child. It can be used to resolve issues about a child’s upbringing, such as where the child should go school (eg state or private), whether they should receive religious instruction or whether they should have a particular form of medical treatment.

Prohibited steps orders

A prohibited steps order imposes a restriction on a parent or other holder of parental responsibility that prevents them from doing something without consent of the court. They may be used, for example, to prevent a change of a child’s name or to prevent a parent from taking a child abroad.

Can I move to live abroad with the children?

If you are separated or divorced and want to move abroad permanently with your children, you must obtain written consent from the other parent and/or any other person who has parental responsibility for the child. If the other parent will not agree, you can apply to the court for permission (this is known as a leave to remove or relocation application).

Objecting to a proposed relocation

If your former spouse or partner has made an application to relocate your children to another country and you want to object to it, you will need to explain to the court why you do not agree, setting out the details in a statement. We will assist you with preparing your statement. We may also want to obtain statements from other family members who have close involvement with the children and who oppose the move.

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