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Children Issues

Child Care Issues (Children Act Matters)

Research shows if issues concerning the children can be agreed amicably and positively between the parties themselves, this benefits the children.  The Keelys LLP Family team offer specialist, prompt and practical support on how to cope with relationship and child care problems as well as how to resolve them.  We have extensive experience in the Law relating to children particularly private disputes between parents and grandparents about matters such as contact, residence and specific issues, for example schooling.

Parental Responsibility

This is perhaps the single most important concept in the Law relating to children.  Parental responsibility is a legal term used to describe the responsibility rights and legal authority a person has in respect of a child.  Someone with parental responsibility is entitled to participate, for example, in naming the child, in deciding the child’s religion and in taking decisions over the child’s schooling and education.

Where two people have parental responsibility they are each free to make conflicting decisions and this is a legal reason why a separating couple need to maintain a good working relationship with one another where possible taking decisions about their child by agreement.

Private Law Proceedings

In Private Law proceedings (between individuals) rather than Public proceedings (where a child may be taken into care), the Court’s main powers are to make:-

  1. A Residence Order to settle where a child has his/her main home, or whether the child is to have two main homes under a Shared Residence Order.
  2. A Contact Order to settle the arrangements for the children to see the absent parent, or at least to keep in indirect contact with them.
  3. A Specific Issue Order to settle a dispute over a particular issue such as education, religion or health.
  4. A Prohibited Steps Order to stop a parent from doing something.

The Law relating to children is governed by the Children Act 1989. The welfare of the child is the guiding principle and any decisions taken by the Court are based on what the Court considers to be in the child or children’s best interest therefore in deciding whether to make an Order, the Court will have regard to the following which is referred to as the welfare checklist:-

(a) the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding);
(b) his physical, emotional and educational needs;
(c) the likely effect on him of any change in his circumstances;
(d) his age, sex, background and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant;
(e) any harm which he has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
(f) how capable each of his parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs;
(g) the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question.

The main principles behind the law can be summarised as follows:-

(a) The child’s welfare should be the Court’s paramount consideration;
(b) Any delay is likely to prejudice the welfare of the child;
(c) The Court’s shall not make an Order unless it considers it would be better for the child than making no Order.

There is a general principle that before anyone can make an application for a Residence or Contact Order they must first attend a mediation, information and assessment meeting (MIAM) to consider if mediation would be a good process for them to try in order to resolve the issues over their children.  This does not mean that the parties have to undertake mediation but they usually have to at least consider it (there are obviously exceptions in cases where the situation is an urgent one or where there is domestic violence or where there would be a long delay before an MIAM can be held.

You may find the following websites useful for further information and guidance:

www.kidsinthemiddle.org.uk

For further information on Child Law matters please contact Katherine Haden on email khaden@keelys.co.uk or telephone 01543 420406.

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