Our Children My Rights! (Part 2)

Louise Butcher Solicitor

What can the Court’s do?

There are lots of Orders open to the Court, an application can be made for a Child Arrangements Order to set out who the child should Live With (this was previously referred to as Residence) and how much time they spend with the other parent (this was previously referred to as Contact). 

Whether, that arrangement be one parent or both and how that time is divided, or whether the child should Live With one parent and Spend Time With the other parent.  A Shared Care Arrangement can be implemented, and this does not mean that it must be a strictly equal division of time.  Lots of factors are taken into consideration the main being the age of the children, distance between each of the parents and the distance to the child’s school.

There are lots of other factors to consider including the family arrangements for each child, parents work commitments and whether one parent is in a new relationship and the other party has an arrangement in place for their children it is important that the parents find a way to work.

What Orders can I apply for?

The four main Orders that parents apply for are as follows:

A Live With Order – setting out with who the children live.

A Spend Time With Order – setting out how much time the children spend with the parent with whom they are not living.

Both a Live With Order and Spend Time with Order can cover the arrangements for children not limited to but to include during school term time, school holidays, special occasions such as Easter, Christmas and Birthdays.

A Prohibited Steps Order – this is an Order preventing the other parent from doing as specific thing for example removing the children from nursery/ school or the care of an entrusted third party save for periods the children are to spend time with the other parent which have been agreed in writing.

A Specific Issue Order – this is an Order dealing with a Specific Issue for example a child’s surname or where there are disagreements as to which school a child should attend.

Who are Cafcass?

Cafcass are the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.  When any application is made in relation to the Children of the Family Cafcass will undertake police checks upon both parents and will conduct Social Services checks.  A brief telephone call will also take place with each parent to identify if there are any safeguarding issues.

Cafcass independently advise the family Courts what is safe for children and what is within their best interests.  If there are safeguarding issues, then Cafcass may recommend that furthermore detail Reports (often referred to as Section 7 Reports) are prepared to assist in providing the Court with more information.

My ex-partner has been violent, and I am concerned our children are at risk?

If there are genuine concerns about the safety of you and your children then discuss these issues with your Solicitor.  When an application is made to the Court you can file a Supplemental Information Form with the Court setting out in detail your concerns.  It is helpful if you can provide your Solicitor with as much detail of incidents as possible to include, dates, detailed description of what occurred, who you sought help or assistance from and what they did about it. Your Solicitor will help you to assess what is the most pertinent information to place before the Court.

What happens once I issue a Court application?

Generally, there are two to three hearings in relation to Children Proceedings, the number of hearings can fluctuate dependant upon the complexity of the issues involved and whether there are allegations of abuse or risk of harm.

In some cases where an Urgent application is required there may be an initial hearing on either short notice or without Notice to the other party.  There are limited Orders a Court will be willing to make in the absence of independent safeguarding checks from Cafcass and each application will depend upon the issues involved and its own merits, no two circumstances are the same.

There will always be a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment this takes place after the Court and the parties (unless Cafcass do not feel it appropriate for the safeguarding letter to be provided to the parties at this stage) have been provided with the Safeguarding Letter.  The Letter will make recommendations to the Court and will also consider whether there needs to be any more detailed assessments conducted by either Cafcass or Social Care if the are involved with the family.

If at this stage, there is no further role for outside agencies and the parents are unable to agree the matter is usually timetable to a Final Contested Hearing. In the event it is identified that there is a further role for Cafcass, or Social Care and a more detailed Report is provided this will be timetabled.  The usual timeframe for completion of these Reports are 12 weeks.

Following receipt of the Report which will contain recommendations the case will be listed for a Dispute Resolution Appointment this is for the parents to consider the recommendations within the Report and try to agree a Resolution.  If parents are unable to agree then the matter will be listed for a Final Contested Hearing.

It is important to remember that a Court would take significant persuading to make an Order which goes against the recommendations of the Cafcass Officer or Social Worker.  Secondly, the parents lose the ability to agree what arrangements they believe are in their children’s best interests and the decision is made by the Court, this often leads to arrangements being imposed on parents that neither parent is happy with.

With the support and guidance of an empathetic and supportive Solicitor you can try and reach an amicable arrangement that is acceptable to all concerned and focus’ on the best interests of the children.

Have you recently separated? 

Are you unsure of what arrangements would be in your child’s best interests, does the other parent feel they know what is best and is unwilling to negotiate or communicate with you?  If you have any queries or questions in relation to your specific circumstances, every case is different, every child has differing needs, contact our Children Specialist Louise Butcher at the Chesterfield Office on 01246 224867 for an initial free 30-minute consultation to discuss your circumstances and how best Louise can assist in reaching a Resolution.