Children

If on separation it is not possible for parents to agree on the arrangements for the children it may be necessary for one or both parties to issue an application for contact or residence. Contact is the amount of time that the person making the application gets to spend with the children.

Residence specifies who the children are to live with. This can be with one parent but can also be with both parents if satisfactory arrangements can be made. This is called joint residence. Step-parents and grandparents can also make applications in respect of children in certain circumstances.

The Courts must always have regard to what is in the best interests of the children. This is called the welfare principle. However, the Courts will not make any orders in respect of the children unless there is a dispute about the arrangements to be made for the children. It is always best to agree the arrangements to be made for the children if possible. It sometimes helps to have outside intervention and mediation should be considered before an application is made to the Courts. We can make a referral to mediation for you.

Not all parents have parental responsibility for their children. Mothers acquire parental responsibility automatically and parental responsibility is conferred on those who have a residence order in their favour. Biological fathers who are married to the mother when a child is born also acquire parental responsibility automatically. Unmarried fathers whose names appear on the birth certificate post December 2003 also acquire parental responsibility.

For others it is necessary to apply for parental responsibility through the Courts if the mother is not prepared to enter into a parental responsibility agreement.

In some instances emergency applications have to be made in respect of children, for instance, if the children have been taken away from home without warning. If the children have been taken out of the country this is child abduction. If there is a real threat that the children might be removed from the country by one parent without the other parent’s consent an application can be made to the Court for a prohibited steps order to prevent their removal and a location order sought in the event that the children’s whereabouts are not known. It is essential in such cases that you instruct a specialist and that you act immediately to ensure that the proper steps are taken to safeguard the children from the outset.

There may also be problems over a specific issue concerning a child such as one parent wishing to change the child’s name against the other parent’s wishes. Disputes may also arise as to whether a child should be given medical attention or not, be circumcised or brought up in a particular way. These can be dealt with by making an application for a specific issue order.

If you require assistance in relation to any of these matters we are able to help and have the necessary expertise to do so.