If a couple’s relationship breakdown affects any of their children, it is vital that the right decisions are made to ensure their wellbeing. At Lupton Fawcett our specialist child law solicitors have helped many couples come to amicable decisions about their children.
Our Yorkshire-based solicitors have handled many children’s cases where orders need to be applied for. We understand how difficult and emotional these situations can become, which is why our aim is to cause as little disruption to a child’s life as possible.
To speak to a lawyer about any issues involving children, or for help applying for an order, get in touch today by calling 0333 323 5292. Alternatively, send us an email or fill in our enquiry form to let us know a convenient time to call you.
We aim to help you make the right decisions about your children as quickly as possible to protect them and keep the stress of the situation to a minimum. Our lawyers will explain all of your rights to you and provide support through negotiation or proceedings if they become necessary.
If an arrangement cannot be made without court proceedings, our team will work hard to defend your interests by providing clear, comprehensive advice and regular updates throughout the case.
Types of Orders
During proceedings, the court will make decisions regarding orders that are in the best interest of the child or children. A number of factors will be considered, including the child’s wishes and feelings, their age and their physical, emotional and educational requirements. There are a number of different agreements that can be made during children disputes, such as:
- Child arrangement orders, or residence orders, which specify who a child lives with and with whom a child is to spend time
- Specific issue orders, which relate to any contested issues that need to be resolved in court, such as the school which a child should attend
- Prohibited steps orders, which can be applied for if a parent wishes to place restrictions on the arrangements for a child; for example, prevent a parent from taking their child abroad
If you are served with court papers, they will tell you if there is an order in force and what the terms are. You must comply with any orders made against you. The papers will also tell you if there is to be a hearing and, if so, where and when you should attend.
Making an Application for an Order
In the majority of cases, the court will not deal with an application unless there has first been a referral to family mediation. If circumstances justify it, an application can be made to court either on shorter notice than is otherwise required (currently 14 days) or without notice to the other party in extreme cases.
The court adopts a number of important principles throughout proceedings that helps decisions to be made:
- a clear focus must be on the child throughout;
- a child has a right to a relationship with both parents;
- the child’s safety must come first;
- the child’s wishes and feelings must be addressed (and respected depending on the age of the child);
- agreement amongst parents should be encouraged;
- all available information should be provided to parents;
- action must be taken quickly and effectively;
- delay must be minimised.
If mediation has not worked and the relevant papers have been filed, the court will issue the proceedings and serve documents on the other parties. A date will be fixed for a First Hearing Dispute Resolute Appointment (FHDRA), which is a hearing that usually takes between 1 and 1.5 hours and provides parents with a chance to resolve the dispute in private with the assistance of the court.
In addition to the FHDRA, a referral will be made to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) where a telephone interview will be conducted with both parents before the first hearing. CAFCASS is also responsible for performing the relevant police checks and preparing a Schedule 2 Report, which informs the court of both parents’ positions and makes a suggestion on how the dispute could be resolved.
If an agreement can be made during the initial hearing, the court may, if necessary make an order reflecting the terms that have been agreed. If not, the court will make a decision about the next steps. This can include CAFCASS preparing a full report during which they will investigate matters and report on parents and their children based on a number of meetings, which can take between 12 and 14 weeks.
Once everyone has read the report, the court will arrange another hearing where, if an agreement has been made, final orders will made if necessary. If a decision has still not been reached, the court will give directions for a full hearing. This involves all parties filing and serving statements setting out their side of the matter. At the final hearing the court will then make orders that it considers are in the best interests of the children.
Decisions are made by the court based on these very clear factors set out in the Children Act 1989:
- the wishes and feelings of the child dependant on age and understanding;
- the needs of the child, including physical, emotional and educational;
- the effect any changes will have on the child;
- any characteristics the court deems relevant, for example, age, sex and background;
- if the child is or is likely to be harmed;
- the capability of both parents and other relevant parties to provide a loving, caring home;
- the powers available to the court under the Children Act 1989
Appealing the Court’s Decision
An appeal will only be granted if the original court decision was plainly wrong. Although some appeals do succeed, it is very rare that a court’s decision can successfully be appealed against because the court has a wide discretion in these cases.
Contact Us for Help
If you need help with a child issue following a divorce or separation, our expert solicitors have provided premium advice on child issues to parents around Yorkshire from our offices in Leeds, York and Sheffield. For an initial discussion on the specific details of your case, contact our child law solicitors today using the details below.
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