One of the main roles of the English family courts is to resolve disputes about children when a relationship between parents – married or unmarried – breaks down. One of the most common areas of conflict arises when parents are unable to agree which one of them the child should live with. In these circumstances the courts can make what are known as ‘Child Arrangements Orders’. (These orders used to be called Custody Orders or Residence Orders). The Courts are sensitive to the need to protect children from being pressurised by either parent to take sides or make choices about where they should live.

Another common issue that often needs to be resolved concerning children is the question of how much or how little contact the child should have with the parent he or she does not live with (the non-resident parent). Until 2014 details of contact were set out in ‘Contact Orders’. Now contact is regulated as part of a Child Arrangements Order.  Contact was previously termed access and the concept is equivalent to the U.S term ‘visitation’. The Courts consider that regular contact is mostly desirable although the practice of how it is achieved varies depending on circumstances.

The courts can also make Prohibied Steps Issues and Specific Issues Orders on other aspects of children’s lives such as schooling, medical treatment and travel although these are less common than Child Arrangements Orders.

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Children's Issues

The scenario below does not relate to any individual clients of ours but the facts and the outcomes relate to some similar experiences in our practice.

Scenario Analysis Example #1

The Scenario

Mr and Mrs H separated. Mr H moved a few streets away and their eldest boy (now 15) lived with him. The younger children (14 and 12) stayed with Mrs H but the children live near each other and attend the same school.

Mrs H remarried and wishes to move to her new husband's city. Mr H sought advice about residence of the other children. He told us the middle child wanted to stay at school with his friends.

Our Solution

There is no set age at which a child can "choose". Nevertheless in reality it would be hard for Mrs H to resist the 14 year old's wishes. We needed to be careful not to stress the children. Rather than issuing proceedingswe arranged mediation for Mr and Mrs H to discuss the issues.

We advised Mr H to be flexible regarding contact. They reached an amicable arrangement for all children to live with Mr H for the school week and half weekends; and flexible school holiday arrangements.

Henry Brookman Discusses: Childrens Issues

If you have questions, contact us now, we can help you.

Children's Issues FAQs

Here is a selection of common questions relating to how children are involved in and affected by the divorce process. If you have unanswered questions, please contact us using the form above or you can contact us here.

Who Can Apply For Child Arrangements Orders?

Either parent can apply for orders relating to children as well as anyone with parental responsibility for the child. Sometimes grandparents or other relatives ask us if they can apply for child arrangements orders. The answer is that they can but they need to clear an extra hurdle first by seeking the permission of the court to do so.

Can I Use Mediation To Settle Disputes About The Children?

Yes. Most child issues are settled through negotiation and mediation. Court is often seen as a last resort. The mediation process is less formal than the court process and many of our clients report that they find mediation less stressful than the idea of going to court. Agreeing arrangements also gives you more of a sense of control over the issues. And it’s possible to formalise anything you agree with your ex spouse through mediation by making the agreement part of a Consent Order.  Once you get this approved by a family judge it’s legally binding.

Do we have to go to Court to decide what will happen to the children?

No, in almost all cases this is not required. Typically, the parents agree and often formalise the arrangement with the assistance of their lawyer. Where parents agree there is usually no need for any court order at all. If the parents cannot agree it would then become a matter for the Court to decide.

Can I insist that I see my child on special occasions, such as birthdays?

Normally the non-resident parent will be able to agree to see their child on significant dates and occasions. This can either be agreed informally with the other parent but if there is a dispute then the non-resident parent could apply for a court order.

Can I take my child to live abroad after divorce?

Permission will be required from the other parent or via a court order. Taking your child abroad for longer than a holiday would be considered abduction and the other parent could apply to the Child Abduction Unit to have your child brought home.

What happens to step children regarding custody and maintenance?

If the step-parent has taken the role of parent during the marriage and their ex-spouse (the biological parent) is not able to provide for the child, the step-parent may then be required to pay child maintenance.  Whilst it is typical for the child’s biological parent to gain residence, this is not always the case. It will depend on how capable the parents are to provide for the child what is in the child’s best interests.

Does the CMS (formerly the CSA) have to be involved in deciding child maintenance?

No. Whilst you may use a CMS calculation to aid with deciding a maintenance payment figure, it is then common for a private maintenance agreement to be set up by your lawyers. The CMS or court do not then need to be involved. If required, 12 months from the agreement, the CMS can become involved if either party wishes it.

Can I change my child’s surname after divorce?

Changing your child’s surname would require the other parent’s written consent or a court order.

Will the family home be retained for the child to live in?

If it is in the best interests of the child to remain in the family home with one of the parents it is possible that the court will order the home to be retained for a set length of time.

Can I move with my child to another part of the UK?

If you are the resident parent, you do not need the other parent’s permission to move with your child within the UK. However, the other parent could request a court order preventing you from moving whilst the situation is looked at in more detail. In making a decision as to the child’s living arrangements, the court will always look first at what is in the best interests of the child.

Can I take my child abroad on holiday?

If you have a court order setting out that the child is to live with you then you do not need ask permission from the other parent to go on holiday abroad for up to 28 days. If you do not have a court order, you will require the permission of the other parent. If the other parent will not give permission, you can apply for an order to go on holiday with the child.

Will my ex-spouse having a new partner affect what contact they can have with our child?

Typically no. However, if you have good reason to be concerned about your child’s welfare with regard to your ex’s new partner, you could apply for conditions to be imposed upon the existing contact arrangements.

Can our child choose which parent they live with?

If the child is old enough and has sufficient understanding to state a preference, the court will take into account their wishes. It is however unlikely that the child will simply be asked to choose because it is an unfair question and the reasons behind a child’s answer may be mixed. The court will however also consider wider factors, including each parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs, the child’s safety and how the new change in circumstances may affect the child.

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About The Team

We are a specialist divorce and international divorce family law team, advising clients in the United Kingdom (specifically England and Wales) and throughout the world. We have a very people–orientated approach to working with clients. Henry Brookman has practised law for over 45 years, and our team has a wide range of skills and expertise. We are recommended by the Legal 500 and have been awarded the Law Society’s quality mark, Lexcel.

Partner

Henry Brookman

With over 45 years' experience, Henry Brookman is the senior member of the team. He is described by The Legal 500 as ‘shrewd, savvy, sagacious and highly experienced’.

Partner

Philip Morton

Recommended by The Legal 500, Philip is an expert in all areas of family law, including domestic and international financial disputes, fraud and commercial dispute resolution.

Partner

Natasha Slabas

Expert in all areas of family law, often involving cases that have an international element, including work in relation to financial settlements following divorce.

Partner

Aziz Malik

Aziz is a Partner at the firm and is highly regarded for his expertise on financial matters in divorce and is recommended by the Legal 500.

Partner

Mark Rennie

Mark is the Group Head of the Horsham Family Law team. He specialises in all areas of matrimonial law, including complex divorce and financial disputes, and is recommended by The Legal 500.

Partner

Nigel Winter

A highly experienced solicitor, Nigel has expertise in collaborative law, divorce, contested litigation, relationship agreements, and children matters. Nigel is recommended by The Legal 500.

Partner

Samantha Jago

Partner at our Guildford office and recommended by The Legal 500, Samantha has specialist expertise in divorce, children matters, complex international cases, and is a trained mediator.

Partner

Amanda Glass

Amanda is a highly experienced family law partner providing expert advice on all aspects of family law, divorce and separation with an emphasis on financial remedy cases.

Senior Associate

Joanna Potbury

Family law specialist based in Brighton advising on divorce, cohabitation agreements, children, post-nuptial agreements, and domestic violence. Joanna is recommended by The Legal 500.

Senior Associate

Kirsty Kelleher

Kirsty is a specialist family law solicitor recommended by The Legal 500. An expert in divorce, financial matters, child-related disputes and contentious probate cases.

Senior Associate

Kevin Danagher

Kevin specialises exclusively in family law, advising on all aspects of relationship breakdown, divorce, same sex marriage, marital agreements, and international family cases.

Senior Associate

Ella Welsby

Known for her sensitivity and discretion combined with significant expertise, Ella advises on all family issues including high-value and multi-jurisdiction divorce and complex financial and children matters.

Senior Associate

Gemma Garrett

Based in Horsham, Gemma is a specialist advising on all areas of family law including divorce and separation (often involving jurisdiction issues), complex financial matters, and children matters.

Senior Solicitor

Susan Hayes

Susan qualified as a solicitor in 1992 and is based at our Brighton office. She is a longstanding member of the Law Society Specialist Children Panel and Family Law Panel. Susan is also a trained Collaborative Lawyer.

Associate Solicitor

Jennifer Douglas

Jennifer is a talented solicitor, recommended by The Legal 500 and experienced in all elements of family law, including high net worth financial proceedings, Children Act proceedings.

Associate Solicitor

Gavin Yeung

Recommended by The Legal 500, Gavin has excellent experience in family law including divorce and financial proceedings and international child abduction proceedings.

Associate Solicitor

Lauren Moir

Lauren is a highly regarded specialist family law solicitor, based at our Guildford office. She advises on divorce, family finances, children matters, domestic abuse, cohabitee issues, and relationship agreements.

Solicitor

Rachael Au

Rachael is a highly capable member of the family team in Brighton. She specialises in family law, advising on divorce, civil partnerships, financial matters, and children issues.

Solicitor

Amber Matheson

Based at the Guildford office, Amber has experience dealing with family matters including divorce, finances, separation after cohabitation, arrangements for children and leave to remove cases.

Solicitor

Amelia Groom

Amelia has experience across a full range of family matters, including divorce, complex disputes regarding finances that range from trusts through to cryptocurrencies, and arrangements for children.

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Eva is an AAT qualified accounts manager and holds full AAT membership (MAAT). She gained her degree in financial accounting from the University of Economics in Bulgaria.

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Victoria Delatouche

Victoria is a highly experienced Legal Secretary and a long-standing member of the team. She provides secretarial support for the office.

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Michelle Louison

Michelle provides secretarial support to Henry Brookman. A very experienced family law secretary, Michelle has worked in law for over 12 years.

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Patricia is an experienced secretary and office administrator, handling the calls that come into the office, greeting clients, and managing office presentation.

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