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As we have mentioned within our divorce section, details as to the arrangements for children must be disclosed to the court at the start of divorce proceedings. Courts will not intervene if arrangements appear sensible and are agreed between the parents.
Where there is disagreement between the parents (whether married or unmarried) about arrangements for their children, please see the section below.
An application to court (can be made for a range of orders) to resolve the major factors in the upbringing of children where the parents are unable to agree. The most usual applications involve residence (who will the children live with) and contact (how often and in what circumstances will the children see the other parent. These orders were historically known as "custody" and "access".
We can make an application on your behalf to resolve these issues. If the matter is to be resolved by the court, it must take into account :
- the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (in light of their age and understanding)
- their physical, emotional and educational needs
- the likely effect on them of any change in the circumstances
- their age, sex, background or any characteristics which the court considers relevant
- any harm which they have suffered or are at risk of suffering
- capability of each of the parents and any other relevant person, of meeting their needs
In the event of an application to court, a 'conciliation appointment' will be set usually 3 or 4 weeks ahead. This is a fairly informal meeting at which the parents are encouraged by the court and a Welfare Officer to negotiate matters through to resolution for the benefit of their children. We can help you at the hearing and, if the negotiations are not successful, ask the court to give directions so that the matter may progress to a final hearing. The court will then deal with any issues that could not be resolved.
We can then deal with the directions set by the court and provide excellent representation for the final hearing to give you the best chance possible of having the court make the Order you want.
Many unmarried parents do not understand that unmarried fathers currently have no legal rights without an agreement or order.
Where parents are unmarried, the mother has parental responsibility from the moment of birth, but fathers do not always automatically acquire it.
Where a child's birth is registered on or after 1st December 2003 by both parents together and the father's name is on the birth certificate, then the father will automatically gain parental responsibility. If the birth was registered prior to 1st December 2003 or where it was registered after that date but by the mother alone, then the father will not have automatic parental responsibility.
Fathers without parental responsibility can obtain it by re-registering the birth; via a formal agreement with the mother or by an order through the courts. We can draft an agreement on your behalf or make an application to court should you wish.
It is now also possible for step-parents to have parental responsibility. We can assist you by drafting a formal agreement with the child's mother and father (if he has parental responsibility) or alternatively by making an application to court on your behalf