When a relationship breaks down it is important that the children of the family are prioritised. Breaking the news to children that their parents are separating is a tough time for any parent or carer. It is essential that such issues are handled sensitively by all members of the family in a planned and calm manner so that the children are reassured that their parents love them and so that they know what to expect about where they will live and when they will see both parents in the following months. It is always best if the adults involved are able to discuss any disputes and reach agreement themselves directly rather than having to use the court process to make a decision about such issues. Specialist legal advice should be taken and use of Mediation or the Collaborative Law process should be considered to achive the best possible outcome for the children.
Only as a last resort should an application to the court be made. The court will only become involved and make orders in relation to children where it is necessary for them to do so and where it is in the best interests of the children. We are able to give detailed and clear advice on the following:
- Residence and shared residence orders detailing where the children should live.
- Contact orders specifying the time the children will spend with the parent they do not live with.
- Specific issue orders dealing with such issues as schooling, medical intervention or moving abroad with children.
- Prohibited steps orders preventing specific actions in relation to children.
- Urgent applications to return children to the care of a specified person.
- Parental responsibility agreements and orders.
- Grandparents rights.
- Changing a child’s name.
In considering any application the Court’s paramount consideration will be the welfare of the children and as such it will consider a number of factors known as the ‘welfare checklist’.
The Children Act 1989: Statutory Welfare Checklist
Under Section 1(3) of the Children Act 1989 the court must have regard in particular to :-
- The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding)
- His physical, emotional and educational needs.
- The likely effect of any change in his circumstances.
- His age, sex, background and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant.
- Any harm which he has suffered or is at risk of suffering.
- How capable each of his parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs.
- The range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question.
For specialist and sensitive advice about any issues relating to children’s solicitors please contact us on Southampton 023 8071 3060 or Alresford (Winchester) 01962 670510 for a free initial consultation.