Children “Living Arrangements” (Formerly Known as Contract and Residence)

Happily, most separation couples are able to prioritise and agree the needs of any children. For instance, where the children are going to live, whether they will remain at the same school, how often they will see each parent etc.

Sadly, in an ever-increasing minority of cases, disputes between the parents as to arrangements for the children arise. Beck Solicitors are able to put couples in touch with a trained Family Mediator to explore whether these areas of dispute can be resolved. The parents will be encouraged to try and reach a compromise on the issues in dispute. Many couples like the comfort of having a “Parenting Agreement” drawn up by the lawyer following mediation. This sets out in clear terms all the arrangements for the children including what is proposed during school holidays, taking the children abroad and the daily needs of the children.

If mediation is not successful, Beck Solicitors will discuss with you the process for taking matters through the court system. It should be remembered that this is always regarded as the last resort and should not be taken lightly. Sadly, there are cases where one parent becomes deeply resistant to the children having contact with the other parent and in such cases there is often little alternative but to seek assistance from the court.

Different Types of Orders

1. – Parental Responsibility Orders – the natural parents of the child automatically have parental responsibility. However, sometimes there is a need for another person in the child’s life to also have parental responsibility (for instance, a step-parent). This can be done by agreement of the child’s natural parents or, if this is not forthcoming, by an application to the court.

2. – Specific Issues Orders – sometimes a parent requires assistance of the court in making key decisions about a child’s life. This could be anything from the surname by which the child should be known, where the child attends school and what religion they will be raised. If no agreement can be reached between the parents, a court application is sometimes necessary.

3. – Prohibited Steps Orders – these are usually emergency orders granted by the court preventing one parent from taking a particular step in relation to the children. The most common example is when a parent is intending to take the children out of the country without the consent of the other parent.

4. – Living Arrangements – if the parents cannot agree between themselves on the best living arrangements for the children or if a dispute arises on one parent seeing the children, these orders will clarify matters.

Anna Godfrey at Beck Solicitors specialises in children matters.