Child Custody and Relocation
Child custody (sometimes referred to as child contact and residence and also access) is often the most contentious issue a separated or divorcing couple must agree on.
In most circumstances, it is far better for the parents to reach an agreement out of the courts, rather than pursuing a lengthy legal battle that results in the court making decisions about the family’s future. Our team can advise you on your parental rights and responsibilities relating to any child or children of your relationship, and assist in negotiating and formalising any out of court agreement reached. In addition, our trained mediators and collaborative child custody solicitors can help create a calm constructive environment for your discussions with the other party involved.
If a decision cannot be reached, it is possible to ask the court to make a residence order, a contact order or both. A residence order regulates whom a child lives with and during what periods. A contact order regulates arrangements for maintaining personal relations and direct or indirect contact with a child (visits, holidays, Skype calls etc.). Any other issue, such as education or child relocation, can also be regulated by a specific issue order.
When reaching a decision on child residence and contact, or any other matter relating to children, the court’s priority is the welfare and best interests of the child. The court will also put emphasis on providing a stable environment and may take into account the views of the children depending on their age and levels of maturity. It is also generally accepted that children should have the benefit of a relationship with both of their parents.
Common questions we can answer
- I have just separated from my partner, how should I approach the arrangements for our children?
- What are my parental rights?
- Can I apply for a residence or contact order if I do not have parental responsibilities and rights (for example, if you are a grandparent)?
- Will my child have a say in whom they want to look after them?
- What do I do if my child does not want to see my ex-partner?
- Can my partner stop me seeing my child?
- I am a step-parent – can I apply for contact with my step-child?
We regularly help clients to resolve child arrangements. Our aim is to help them find a solution that is practical, amicable and in the best interests of the children. If court proceedings cannot be avoided, our specialist family law litigators are ready to help clients navigate the court system and make sure they are fully represented.
As in most matters relating to children, it is often in everyone’s best interests if child maintenance is agreed privately between the parents (both of whom have financial obligations to their children).
This allows an arrangement to be made that truly reflects the needs of the children and each of the parents’ financial circumstances. We can guide you on this and help keep discussions with your former partner constructive and non-confrontational by using collaboration or mediation techniques, if required.
Areas we can advise on
- How much maintenance should be paid to comply with the Child Maintenance Service’s expectations?
- The protocol that should be followed if one of the parents lives overseas.
- What to do if you think you are not receiving enough maintenance.
- How maintenance payments are calculated.
- Which parent has responsibility for the child’s school and university costs?
- Whether maintenance should be paid for step-children or if your child is over 16 or in employment
If a parent wants to move to another country or go on holiday with their children, whether within the UK or beyond, they must either get consent from the other parent (and any other person with parental rights or responsibilities) or obtain permission from the court via a specific issue order. The main priority when making a decision about relocation is whether it is in the child’s best interests, and whether the situation maintains his or her relationships with both parents. Relocation, therefore, needs to be planned as carefully, and diplomatically, as possible.
We can advise you on:
- Your right to relocate with your child.
- Your right to prevent another parent relocating with your child.
- How to apply to the court for permission to relocate, if your partner refuses to give consent.
The court will take many things into consideration when making a decision, including:
- The wishes of the child (depending on age and maturity).
- The effect of the relocation on the child’s contact with family left behind.
- The benefits of any potential relationships with family in the new location.
Ultimately, the child’s future welfare will be the most important thing the court takes into consideration.
If you want to relocate, or if you want to stop your former partner relocating with your child, then you should seek legal advice as early as possible.