Of course children result from many different types of relationships. For children, whether from a marriage or other relationship between couples; cohabitation or boyfriend/girlfriend or same sex couples, a breakdown in their parents’ relationship can be sad, stressful and confusing so that the quicker the parent’s difficulties can be sorted out, the better.
There are many considerations to be had when it comes to resolving the inevitable difficulties that will affect children from the breakdown of any one of the relationships referred to. First and foremost it is important to establish who has Parental Responsibility for the children. This means all the rights and responsibilities that an individual may or may not have for the children in question.
Parental Responsibility can be acquired in a number of ways. All mothers have Parental Responsibility. All married fathers have Parental Responsibility and since December 2003 all fathers acquire Parental Responsibility if their names are on the Birth Certificate.
It is essential to establish whether Parental Responsibility exists as, if not, then before an individual can make an application in relation to the children, they must first of all acquire Parental Responsibility. This can be done either by agreement with the mother or, if this consent is not forthcoming, then by applying for leave to apply for Parental Responsibility to the Court.
Once Parental Responsibility is established then discussions can begin in relation to the future arrangements for the children. This can take many forms. The parents may be arguing over:-
- Where and with whom the children live.
- Whether one parent can remove the children from the jurisdiction of these shores.
- Whether the children should attend a particular school or receive certain medical treatment, or be brought up in a particular religion.
The issues can be in relation to day-to-day arrangements or in relation to important specific issues that arise which will affect the children. Indeed one parent may be seeking to prohibit or prevent the other parent from taking a particular action which involves the children.
In the majority of cases, every attempt will be made to avoid having to go to court, as this can be lengthy, costly and emotionally charged for the parents and the children.
It is important to be aware that a ‘no Order’ principle is applied by the courts, as Judges take the view it is better for children not to have a Court Order hanging over them; rather, it is much preferred that the parents themselves can make decisions for the children without interference from the Court, where possible.
If it is simply not going to work out between the parents that an agreement over the arrangements for the children can be reached, then the Court will be called upon to involve itself in obtaining an outcome in the best interests of the children; not what is best for the parents. It should be noted that before an application to the Court can be made, it is necessary for mediation to have been attempted. If mediation is unsuccessful, the mediator will have to sign off the formal application to the Court in Form C100.
To achieve an outcome from the Court, the Judge will be assisted in such disputes concerning children by an Officer of the Court known as CAFCASS (Court Advisory and Family Court Support Service) Officer. A CAFCASS Officer usually has expertise in social work and is often regarded as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the Judge. The CAFCASS Officer will visit and interview both parents, the children as well as other people who have had dealings with children e.g. the children’s teacher at school, the police or social services.
The conclusions reached by the CAFCASS Officer are taken very seriously by the Court when determining what is best for the children. A report, which would be ordered to be prepared at the outset of proceedings, can often take up to four months to prepare. Once the report is available, if it is not possible for the parents to reach agreement in relation to the children, then the Court will have no option but to list the matter as a full Final Hearing. It can take many months for a court date to be fixed. At the Hearing both parents will have to give evidence about their views on the issues surrounding the children which can often be a difficult experience.
Here at Breakthrough Family Law we encourage parents to put their own difficulties aside and to strive to reach an agreement that is in the best interests of the children, however much bitterness may exist as a result of the parent relationship breakdown. It is very important for the parents not to allow their distaste for one another to cloud the requirements of the children.
At Breakthrough Family Law we can help to take the tension out of unhappy situations by advising on appropriate strategies for dealing with outcomes for children, in the hope of avoiding costly court proceedings and enabling children to be settled into a happy routine and structure once the parents have concluded their own relationship.Call Breakthrough Family law on 01494 776696 for consultations in Beaconsfield, Berkhamsted, Harrow and Mayfair, London.
During weekends or if you have an urgent matter, please call us on 07973 955775
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