Children Law Solicitors

Working out arrangements for your children following separation or divorce can be a considerable source of family conflict.  At MPR Solicitors, our family law team are dedicated to providing positive, non-confrontational family law service to our clients.  Wherever possible, we encourage and support clients to solve disagreements over child arrangements between themselves.  We achieve this by providing sensitive, empathetic service and having the Court’s guiding principle that the children’s interests come first, in mind.

To contact our children law solicitors, please call our office on 020 3824 8080 to make an appointment at our central London or Hounslow office.

In addition to helping couples sort out arrangements for children, we also advise and represent clients on matters such as adoption, internal and international relocation, guardianship, and adoption issues.

What is parental responsibility?

The term ‘parental responsibility’ is defined in section 3(1) of the Children Act 1989 as being:

“all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”.

What this means in practice is when certain decisions must be made regarding a child, such as where they will go to school, those with parental responsibility will have a say.

Other matters those with parental responsibility can decide on in relation to a child include:

  • the child’s religion and whether they will be brought up following certain religious and cultural practices
  • naming the child and registering their name
  • appointing a guardian to look after the child should one, or both of the parents die
  • consenting to certain medical treatments
  • taking the child overseas
  • representing the child in court

Do you have to go to court to make arrangements for your children following a separation?

You are not required to go to court to make arrangements for your children, in fact, family law in the UK is set up to help you solve family disputes outside the courtroom.  There are times when attending court is inevitable, for example, if there has been abuse or domestic violence in the relationship or, attempts to resolve the issue outside of court have been unsuccessful.  If a dispute cannot be resolved through negotiation or mediation, there may be no alternative than to bring the matter before a judge.  However, this is rare.  At MPR Solicitors, we have a wealth of experience in assisting parents resolve any disagreements around who the children will live with and how often the parent who does not live with the child/ren, has contact.  We strive to help parents work out these matters in a non-confrontational and respectful manner, and in most cases, couples agree on arrangements without having to attend court.

If you and your partner agree on arrangements for your children following a divorce, our solicitors can draft a Child Arrangements Order [‘CAO’] to be presented to the court, who will make the agreement legally binding.  Although this is not a legal requirement, having a formal agreement gives both parents peace of mind that if the agreement is broken, you can go to court to have it enforced.

How do you get custody of your child?

In UK family law, the term ‘Child Arrangement Orders’ is used rather than ’custody’ or ‘access’.

A Child Arrangement Order is an order relating to:

  • whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with, and
  • when a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person

If you and your partner cannot agree on who your children will predominantly reside with, and when the other parent will see them, the court can make a Child Arrangement Order.

Prior to attending court, you and your partner will need to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to see if the disagreement over child arrangements can be resolved through mediation.   There are some circumstances in which a MIAM is not appropriate, for example if a decision needs to be made quickly or there is a history of abuse and/or domestic violence.

In considering whether to make an order, the welfare of the child must be the court's paramount consideration.  If your case goes to court, a ‘Cafcass’ officer may be present.  Cafcass is an independent organisation which represents children in the family court.  Their role is to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child, advise the court and support families.  

If you must attend court, we will advise, represent, and support you throughout the process.  We understand how stressful court proceedings surrounding children can be.  However, you can be confident that our expert family solicitors are on your side.

Can I stop my partner from moving overseas with my children?

If your ex-spouse or partner wishes to relocate to another country, they must gain consent from the other parent (or person who has parental responsibly for the child) or the courts.  We are experienced in representing both the applicant, as well as the parent who does not want the child/ren to be taken abroad so please contact us.  Making/defending an application for relocation involves more than a simple paper application:  there are numerous factors to consider, as well as practical steps which will need to be taken and we can help with every aspect.

What can I do if my partner has taken my child overseas without my consent?

Under the Child Abduction Act of 1984, it is a criminal offence for anyone connected with a child to take them out of the UK for more than 28 days without the consent of any other person who has parental responsibility for that child, or a consenting order from the courts. 

Parental child abduction has increased over the years thanks to more international marriages, cheaper travel costs and higher divorce rates. 

The procedure for having your child returned to the UK will depend on whether they have been taken to a country which is a signatory to ‘The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction’ or to a country which is not a signatory (and is not party to any other bi-lateral judicial agreements with the UK related to child abduction). 

Our family law team has the experience and connections required to deal quickly with child abduction cases.  We are committed to putting the welfare of the child first, and can collaborate with solicitors and government officials in overseas jurisdictions to ensure your child is safely returned to the UK.

To find out more about our children law solicitors, please call us on 020 3824 8080 or fill in our contact form to get in touch.