Children and Relationship Breakdown
Dealing with a marriage or relationship breakdown is difficult at the best of times, however when the breakdown involves children it can make an already painful situation all the more traumatic.
Some of the most important problems to resolve after the breakdown of a relationship involves where the children will live and when they will see each parent and other family members (currently known as a Child Arrangements Order).
Our family solicitors have expertise in dealing with a wide range of issues involving children and specialise in resolving disputes between parents by offering practical and sensible advice. Our solicitors have helped parents in a wide range of circumstances including situations where there have been allegations of domestic abuse, parental alienation or, where one parent has sought to move abroad.
Balancing the rights of parents with child custody laws, whilst at all times considering the needs of the child requires both an in-depth knowledge of the law as well as understanding and compassion.
Our family team will always try to encourage parents to reach an agreement between themselves but should your only option be to make an application to the court then we will guide you through the process and try and reach a solution for you with minimal stress and minimal cost.
We are also able to help with access matters and relocation procedures.
‘A parent who seeks to relocate a child internationally must not remove the child from the UK without the written consent of every person with parental responsibility or leave of the court’
Following the breakdown of a relationship, it can be tempting to re-locate for a fresh start and a new perspective but such a desire becomes more complicated when there are children involved.
Often, parents cannot agree on the highly emotive subject of a child relocating out of the country and in these instances the only available option to parents is for an application to be made to the court in order to obtain permission. The court process is however a very lengthy process and judges have comments that relocation applications are one of the hardest decisions to be made. It is often inevitable that one parent will win, whilst the other loses.
Parents intending to move a child out of the country will need to show that they have covered all practical points such as obtaining housing, schools, ties to the area by way of friends and family, that they could obtain employment as well as demonstrating how easy the child would be able to transition into the new country. The court will also of course, always take into consideration the rights and feelings of the parent left behind and it will have to be shown by the relocating parent that suitable and adequate contact provisions are going to be put into place.
As a result of these requirements on parents, a number of decisions by the family court have been established, setting out guidance as to how such cases should be heard, with the underlying principle being that when deciding such an application the welfare of the child is the most important issue. For example if a child is older and in secondary education a parent may have a harder time in convincing a court that a relocation is best due to the large disruption in a child’s life. However, if child is younger, they would be moving to a country where there are pre-established friends and family, the decision to allow relocation may be greater.
Whether you are wishing to move or prevent a move it is important to remember that your child’s welfare remains the court’s paramount consideration.
The Courts and Your Children
The Court will always treat the child’s welfare as their number one concern. Their decisions are tied into a set of principles contained in the Children Act 1989.
By applying the same principles to their discussions, negotiations and advice, parents and lawyers can seek to avoid getting the Courts involved in the decision process between all parties.
The principles on what should be considered from the Children Act 1989 can be summarised as follows:
- the wishes and feelings of the child concerned (with reference to their age and understanding)
- their physical, emotional and educational needs
- the likely effects on the child from any change in circumstances
- their age, sex, background and any characteristics that the court considers relevant
- the harm which they have suffered or are at risk of suffering from any decision made
- how capable each of his or her parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his or her needs
All parties involved are under a duty to avoid letting the process drift. Deadlines are usually put in place to ensure a court order is complied with at the earliest opportunity.
Parties can, of course, avoid the involvement of the Courts but it can be useful to have an agreement made between parents (for example) turned into a legally binding consent order through the Court.