Q. What is Parental Responsibility?
A: This is a term for the responsibilities a parent has for making the important decisions in a child’s life – such as their education, medical care and daily decisions about how the child should be raised.
Natural mothers have Parental Responsibility automatically. A natural father will only have Parental Responsibility if he is married to the mother at the time of the birth of the child or if he is registered as the father on the child’s birth certificate after 1 December 2003.
Otherwise, you will need to enter into a formal Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother, or if she refuses, apply to the court for an order.
Q. How are Child Arrangements decided?
A: The English courts now use the term Child Arrangements in respect of children. (In the past this has been called Residence and Custody) This means any decisions regarding who the children live with on a day-to-day basis, who else they spend time with and when these arrangements should take place.
The courts prefer that wherever possible, parents agree the children arrangements amicably and solicitors can assist them in negotiating terms. It is also advisable to consider mediation or the collaborative process.
Q. I have lost “custody” of my child, following divorce. I want to sort out visiting arrangements. What should I do?
A: You really need to speak to one of our expert family solicitors as all cases need to be viewed on an individual basis as they are each unique. In general terms, however, if the child is living with your spouse it would be usual for the child to still have regular contact with you. It is preferable to agree these arrangements with the other parent amicably, but if this fails, you can apply to the court for a Child Arrangements Order.
Q. My ex-spouse is being difficult about my visits to see my child(ren). What can I do?
A: Ideally, you want to use a solicitor (and they may suggest a mediator can help) to try and resolve the difficulties amicably. However, if negotiating proves impossible for some reason, you will need to make an application to the court for a Child Arrangements Order, and our specialist family team can help you do this.
Q. My ex-spouse is not keeping up their maintenance payments for our child(ren). What should I do?
A: This will depend on how those maintenance payments were agreed. If there is a court order setting out the terms, then you should take legal advice immediately to find out if you can enforce those terms by going back to the court.
If the payments were agreed amicably originally or through an assessment by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), you need to use the CMS to help you, and we would advise you to contact them urgently. If the CMS does not seem to be dealing with your case promptly, or fairly, then you may need further legal advice to assist.
Q. My ex-spouse is making a fuss about our children meeting my new partner. What rights does my former spouse have to stop my children meeting my new partner?
A: If your former spouse has Parental Responsibility (PR) for the children (see questions above) then they have a general right to know how the children are. Even if they do not have PR they could probably apply to the court to seek an order for this, and in any event will no doubt feel they have the right to be concerned about the children. Whilst it would be very difficult for your former spouse to stop your children meeting your new partner, you may want to think about trying to agree how and when it happens with your former spouse – or at least keep them updated about it. Otherwise, you may have exactly the same problem, but in reverse, if your former spouse wants to introduce the children to any new partner they have in the future.