Divorcing couples often find it difficult to agree on where their children should live and how much contact they should have with the other parent. Tensions between couples often stem from the lack of communication built up over the course of a marriage. Divorcing couples often assume that when it comes to children, a lengthy legal process will be needed to determine their future well-being. While this may be the only way forward, those who follow the court process to decide child custody often find it a lengthy, stressful, and expensive process.
Do we have to go to court to resolve custody?
Alternatives to the courts are available and should be actively considered before the courts are involved in making final decisions about the welfare of the children. These alternatives, which are “more relationship-friendly,” help couples break up to discuss and resolve child custody and other child disputes, reaching an agreement without stressful and expensive court proceedings. They also provide a faster solution for everyone involved so that the kids can find some stability sooner rather than later. Options include:
• Cooperation legislation
• Lawyer-to-lawyer bargaining
More details about these alternatives will be discussed in other articles. Basically, each process is meant to help couples meet and come to an agreement with the help of a qualified mediator, collaborating attorney, or specialist family attorney.
What if we can’t agree on custody or contact time?
It is important to emphasise that the basic principle in a dispute about children is that the judge does not rule unless this is necessary. If an agreement cannot be reached between the couple, a petition to the court may be the only solution, but this is usually seen as a last resort. The judge will only issue an order if it is better for the child to carry out the order than not to.
If the courts intervene, what can they order?
If a dispute cannot be resolved by the alternative forms of dispute resolution listed above, an application may be made to the court for an injunction under the Children Act 1989. This Act is directed at a child, and the emphasis in English law is on the rights of children and the responsibilities of parents towards their children. The primary concern of the court is the welfare of the child. As follows, there are several orders that the court can carry out.
• Order of residenceThis states with whom the child(ren) will live, and the court can impose a shared residence order so that both parents have a decision.
• Contact informationIt defines the type and frequency of contact. A child has a right to a relationship with both parents, and sometimes a warrant is needed to ensure that a child gets that right.
Order of Parental Responsibility All married parents share parental responsibility until their children turn 18. Parents do not lose parental responsibility when they divorce. Unmarried fathers can obtain parental authority if their names are on the child’s birth certificate, in consultation with the child’s mother, or by court order.
• Order of Prohibited StepsThis order limits how some parental rights and responsibilities can be used. For example, a parent might not be able to see their child.
• Execute Specific OrderThis order contains clues related to a particular point of contention, such as where a child goes to school or perhaps whether a parent may remove a child from the country.
Newnham & Jordan Solicitors in Poole, Dorset, UK are experienced and fully qualified Poole family lawyers and can assist you with all marital and family matters, including the resolution of child disputes that may arise from divorce or legal separation.