FAMILY AND CHILDREN
Divorce is never painless, but our experienced divorce team can provide all the essential documentation, papers, advice and support you will need to settle your divorce quickly and efficiently with the least amount of stress or expense and without a court appearance.
To apply for a divorce, there are a number of steps you’ll need to follow. The more you and your husband or wife agree about, the quicker the process will be. These stages can take about four months if you and your spouse agree on:
If you and your spouse don’t agree on these issues the divorce can take much longer.
Looking after children if you divorce or separate
You may need to make arrangements for your children if you divorce, end your civil partnership or separate from your partner.
If you are a parent and you disagree with your child’s other parent or other family members about things like:
• where your child lives,
• who they live with and when,
• how often they see the parent they don’t live with most of the time,
• who else they should see, and
• you want to apply for a court order about the arrangements for your children.
(1) Child Arrangements Orders
These orders decide who the child is to live with and/or who the child will spend time with, and can be granted to more than one person whether they live together or not. If a child arrangements order states that the child will live with a person, that person will have parental responsibility for that child until the order ceases. Contact with a child can either be direct e.g. fact to face meetings, or indirect e.g. by letter or exchange of cards.
Some orders will make very specific arrangements for the child, other orders will be more open with detailed arrangements to be made between the parties by agreement. Child arrangements orders are not only made in respect of parents; there can also be orders for arrangements between siblings, and wider family members. Sometimes the order will give directions that contact is to be supervised by a third person, or that contact is to take place in a specific location.
(2) Parental Responsibility
Parental responsibility means 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.
The birth mother of a child will always have parental responsibility unless it is extinguished by the making of an adoption order to another person.
Where the child's father and mother are married to each other at the time of the birth, they both have parental responsibility for the child.
Where the child's mother and father are not married to each other at the time of the birth the general rule is that the mother has sole parental responsibility for the child. However, an unmarried father will have parental responsibility for a child born after 1st December 2003 if he is named on the Register.
Other ways in which a father can obtain parental responsibility are by:
a) drawing up an agreement with the mother (a parental responsibility agreement), which is a specific form that has to be signed by both parents;
b) marrying the mother;
c) the court making a child arrangements order for parental responsibility if the parents cannot agree on the father having parental responsibility.
Other people may acquire parental responsibility by entering into an agreement if they are the husband or civil partner of the mother, or if they obtain a child arrangements order for residence.
More than one person can have parental responsibility for the same child at the same time. Parental responsibility is shared between everyone, but where more than one person has parental responsibility for a child each of them may act alone in meeting that responsibility except in circumstances where the consent of everyone with parental responsibility is required.