Arrangements for Children
The parties involved
When you separate from your partner, we understand that there can be problems sorting out the care arrangements for children.
The Heald family team will help you sort out issues relating to your children (previously called custody), and, contact (previously called access). The most common Orders which can be made by the court under Section 8 of the Children Act are:
- Residence – who the children will live with or sometimes shared residence;
- Contact – arrangements for children to see a non-resident parent or other family member;
- Prohibited Steps Order – where the court makes tailored orders about how one or more person with parental responsibility exercises that responsibility, for example whether they can take children abroad or not and;
- Specific Issue Order – where the court can make Orders on matters other than residence or contact, where the parents cannot agree, e.g. which school the child should attend, or whether they should have particular medical treatment.
“Parental responsibility” describes all the rights and duties of a parent. The birth mother of a child automatically has parental responsibility. A married man is automatically assumed to be the father of any child born during the marriage or of any child born during the relationship with the mother, before the marriage and then who marries the mother. Such a father also keeps the parental responsibility for the children even after divorce.
An unmarried father is in a slightly more complicated position. Before 1 December 2003 no unmarried father had parental responsibility for his children, even if he was named on the birth certificate as the father. If such a father wants parental responsibility, he can obtain this either by entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother, or obtain a parental responsibility Order from the court.
For a child born after 1 December 2003, an unmarried father will have automatic parental responsibility for that child if he is named on the birth certificate as the father. If he is not, he does not have parental responsibility and this can only be gained by entering into a parental responsibility agreement, or obtaining a parental responsibility court Order.
Ways of sorting out problems
Whilst court applications to deal with these issues are sometimes necessary, the Heald Family Team usually recommends other ways to resolve the problem. Mediation can help parents to reach agreements about the arrangements for their children without having to ‘fight’. Collaborative law can be used in the same way. There are separate sections on this website which explain how mediation and collaborative law work in more detail.