We all hope that if our relationship with the parent of our children breaks down, we would be able to make arrangements for the children without recourse to solicitors or the courts. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible.
At Clifton Ingram, our specialist children law solicitors can advise on the best course of action to try and maintain family relationships. We will try and reach an agreement with the other parent regarding child-related issues but where this cannot be achieved, we will apply to the court to obtain the best possible outcome for our client and the children.
Historically the court has made orders for residence and contact (formerly custody and access). Now the court makes Child Arrangements Orders which regulate what the arrangements will be, including with whom the child is to live and spend time with and when.
The court can also make orders about specific issues such as what school the child should attend or what medical treatment they will receive. The court can prohibit a parent from taking a course of action in relation to the child if it is satisfied that it is not in the child’s best interests.
For immediate advice, please contact our team or you can read our FAQs to learn more about child law.
“Solid and highly capable family team with a supportive, no fuss, can-do, approach”
Legal 500, 2022
Why trust Clifton Ingram for child law advice?
- One of the leading Family Departments in the Thames Valley and M3 Corridor
- Ranked in respected client guide The Legal 500 for Family Law, recognising us as some of the best family law solicitors in the region
- All of our children solicitors in Wokingham, Reading and Farnham are members of leading family law network Resolution
- Extensive experience with both straightforward and more complex matters
- Commitment to achieving a speedy and practical resolution to child access issues
- Keeping things cost-effective so that your assets are not swallowed up by legal fees
- Strong expertise in constructive and non-confrontational ways of resolving family disputes
- Ready to take immediate, firm action to protect your interests when needed
- A service tailored to your needs and those of your children
Our child law services include:
- Negotiating arrangements for children
- Court applications for Child Arrangements Orders
- Resolving one-off issues through negotiation and Specific Issue Orders
- Prohibited Steps Orders (to prevent a parent taking an action with respect to a child)
Contact our child law solicitors in Farnham, Reading & Wokingham
Our proactive and down-to-earth team of highly experienced child law specialists work from offices in Farnham, Reading and Wokingham. We provide child law support for clients from all over Berkshire, as well as Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey and further afield.
Speak to one of our solicitors for child law today by calling 0808 164 1510 or using the contact form at the bottom of the page and we will respond quickly.
Learn more about UK child law:
- Who gets custody of a child after divorce?
- How is child access agreed?
- What happens during mediation?
- Will I need to go to court for a child arrangements order?
- What goes in a child arrangements order?
- How does the court decide who gets custody?
- What happens if a child arrangements order is breached?
The legal system no longer refers to ‘custody’ in child cases, using the term ‘child arrangements’ instead. The courts prefer that children have a meaningful relationship with both parents wherever possible.
There is no initial bias towards either parent and child arrangements are made by considering what will be in a child’s best interests.
It is preferable for parents to agree child arrangements between themselves if they can. If this is not possible, their solicitors can try to negotiate an agreement. Where this fails, the next step is usually alternative dispute resolution such as mediation.
It is generally a requirement that parents at least consider mediation before taking a case to court, unless domestic violence is an issue.
The first stage is to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting, often referred to as a MIAM. You and your child’s other parent will attend, although you can go separately if you prefer.
You can tell the mediator about your situation and they will discuss how mediation works and help you decide whether it could be helpful. If you decide to go ahead with mediation, you will have a series of meetings to try and negotiate child arrangements.
Mediation is generally a faster and more cost-effective way of resolving matters than court hearings. It can also reduce conflict and help prevent a relationship from deteriorating.
It is often possible to resolve matters without the need to go to court. If you are able to reach an agreement with your child’s other parent, the details will be put in writing and the court can approve them, making a binding child arrangements order.
You would only need to go to court if it was not possible to reach an agreement.
You can tailor your child arrangements to your family’s circumstances and include anything that you have agreed upon. Key clauses that are usually contained in a child arrangements order include:
- Where the child will live and who they will live with
- When the child will spend time with the other parent and how long for
- Where this will be
- How the child will stay in touch with parents when they are not together, such as phone calls or texts
- Where a child will go to school
- What will happen in the school holidays
- Any agreement for going away on holiday
If the court is asked to decide on child arrangements, it will always prioritise your child’s best interests.
It will usually ask the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, known as Cafcass, to meet with you and your family and prepare a report to help the court make its decision.
When making an order, the court will use the welfare checklist that is set out in the Children Act 1989. The welfare checklist is as follows:
- The wishes and feelings of the child in light of their age and understanding
- The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
- The likely effect on the child of any change in their circumstances
- The child’s age, sex, background and any other characteristics that the court feels are relevant
- Any harm the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
- How capable each parent is of meeting the child’s needs
- Whether the court needs to exercise any of its powers in respect of other issues
In deciding who a child will live with, the court will take into account who has taken on the bulk of the childcare to date. To keep the situation stable for the child and minimise disruption, it could decide that they should continue to live with that parent.
Child arrangements orders are legally binding, meaning both parties should comply with the terms. If your child’s other parent has breached the terms of the order, you are initially advised to try and talk to them about it, to establish why it has happened and whether it can be dealt with amicably.
If the breach is ongoing, you are advised to speak to expert child solicitors who will be able to recommend the best course of action. If you ask us to assist, we will start by writing a formal letter to your child’s other parent. Where the breach is regular, consistent and intentional, it may be necessary to ask the court to intervene.
There are a range of penalties that can be imposed on a parent who is repeatedly breaching a child arrangements order, including:
- Imposing a fine
- Making an order for compensation if the breach has cost the other parent money
- Imposing a community service order
- Varying the terms of the child arrangements order
- Committing the parent in breach to prison, which is only used in the most severe cases
Our child solicitors’ fees
We know that costs can be of concern, particularly during the upheaval of a divorce or separation. We will make sure you have a clear estimate at the outset and that we regularly review the situation. We offer some work on a fixed fee basis.
We will make sure that you have the right family lawyer for your needs and that we work cost-effectively to keep fees to a minimum.
Contact our Child Law Solicitors in Farnham, Reading & Wokingham
Our proactive and down-to-earth team of highly experienced solicitors for children work from offices in Farnham, Reading and Wokingham. We provide child law support for clients from all over Berkshire, as well as Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey and further afield.
Speak to one of our child law solicitors today by calling 0808 164 1510 or using the contact form at the bottom of the page and we will respond quickly.