If you and your former spouse or partner cannot reach an agreement on any arrangement relating to your children between you, then you will need to seek the assistance of a professional third party to help you to resolve your differences swiftly and with the least amount of acrimony.
In April 2014, the Child Arrangements Programme came into force, governing how disputes between parents over arrangements for children should be dealt with.
The programme promotes direct negotiation and agreement between the parents wherever possible and to minimise the delay in resolving the issue where agreement cannot be reached.
If the Court is required to decide the issue and to make an Order setting out the future arrangements, then it has power to make one or more of the following orders:-
- Child Arrangements Order. Child Arrangements Orders have replaced Residence and Contact Orders. A Child Arrangements Order can set out with whom a child should live, spend time or otherwise have contact with, and can be granted to more than one person whether they live together or not. Contact with a child can either be direct e.g. face to face meetings, or indirect e.g. by exchange of cards.
- Specific Issue order – to deal with issues such as schooling, the surname the child is known by or other one-off issues such as consent to non-urgent medical treatment, consent to leave the county to move abroad etc;
- Prohibited Steps orders – restricting how a parent exercises his/her Parental Responsibility;
- Parental Responsibility Order – giving a person (other than the mother or a father who has Parental Responsibility) legal status as a parent – which means that person has a legal duty.
It is expected that, as parents, you will take every possible step to endeavour to resolve your differences without having to resort to Court proceedings. If you seek our advice, we will advise you on all the available procedures open to you to support you towards reaching an agreement, such as mediation and collaborative law. If you are unable to resolve your differences in this way, you will still be expected to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before you are entitled to apply to the Court for an Order.
Specific Issue and Prohibited Steps Orders, however, can involve emergency court proceedings as sometimes action has to be undertaken swiftly to maintain the status quo until the court has had an opportunity of investigating matters. In such cases, the required referral to mediation or other dispute resolution services may be dispensed with.
As experts in our field, more than 80% of our cases are successfully resolved without ever having to resort to Court proceedings, and we will endeavour to achieve the same for you. If Court proceedings are unavoidable, then we are committed to achieving the best possible outcome for you.