Parental Responsibility (PR) is the legal rights and responsibilities a parent has for the child. This may include, but is not limited to, providing a home for the child, protecting, and maintaining the child, choosing, and providing for the child’s education and/or medical treatment. Even if you are separated, you do not lose your parental responsibility and should still be involved when making important decisions about your child.

A mother has PR automatically. A married father automatically has PR of a child born to him and his wife. If a father is named on the birth certificate, then he automatically has PR.

Mediation

In the first instance, an attempt to mediate must be explored. A mediator is an independent person, often a solicitor, who tries to facilitate an agreement between the parties without court proceedings being issued. The mediation takes place without solicitors being present. An initial appointment (MIAM) will be made to speak with each party individually and to establish the suitability of ongoing mediation. If the parties choose to mediate then the mediator will facilitate sessions together or individually, depending on the circumstances of the case.

Child Arrangement Order

If this is unsuccessful after attending the MIAM, an application for a Child Arrangement Order can be made to the Court who will then determine how much time should be spent with the absent parent and whether any conditions necessary. Sometimes the Court will direct that the parties attend some form of family therapy to understand how to co-parent in the best interest of the child / children since separation and to overcome negative feelings. It maybe that matters cannot be agreed at the first hearing and so there will be a further hearing. 

CAFCASS Officer

A CAFCASS Officer may be appointed, to prepare a report and recommend to the court what they believe to be in the best interests of the child and how much time should be spent with the absent parent. CAFCASS are independent court appointed welfare officers, who will meet with the parents and if appropriate, the child / children, to establish the views of all the parties and the recommendation they make is based upon their investigations. They will also undertake a safeguarding check to ensure there are no risks that have not been highlighted. These include police checks, whether there has been any social services involvement and enquiries of the school if relevant.

Final Hearing

If no agreement can be reached at this stage a final hearing will take place whereby parties will give evidence and the court will make an Order that the parties then have to adhere to.

An attempt at mediation must first be made and, if this fails, an application to the court for a ‘Live with Order’ needs to be made. An application is made by way of a C100 application, which sets out the parties details and a short statement of the difficulties. The court will look at many factors when deciding, including the age, and understanding of the child / children and their wishes and feelings depending upon their age.

A CAFCASS Officer may be appointed, to prepare a report and recommend what they believe to be in the best interests of the child. CAFCASS are independent court appointed welfare officers, who will meet with the parents and if appropriate, the child / children, to establish the views of all the parties and the recommendation they make is based upon their investigations. They will also undertake a safeguarding check to ensure there are no risks that have not been highlighted. These include police checks, whether there has been any social services involvement and enquiries of the school if relevant.

The police can be contacted in the first instance and then an urgent application under the Children Act 1989 for a ‘Specific Issue Order’ can be made for the immediate return of the child/children. If there is a risk to their safety and wellbeing, this may be made without notice to the parent who is keeping the child/children, or it may be that an urgent hearing with notice to that parent is given for the court to then determine whether that child/children should be returned. If the application is made ex parte (without notice) the court will try to list the application as quickly as possible and also list the matter for a further hearing within a short period of time so as to give the other party an opportunity to put forward their reasons.

An application for a ‘Prohibited Steps Orders’ can be made to stop them taking any of the above actions. If this is urgent then application can be made without giving notice to the other parent.

A shared live-with / residence order is becoming much more common, as parents are able to share the time they spend with their child / children equally or unequally. It may be an arrangement where their child / children are with them on a week on week off basis, so that the child benefits from both parents. This requires a certain amount of cooperation between the parents. 

This is always a difficult issue, but it is important that before this step is taken the child’s / children’s emotional stability and security are considered. The new relationship should be stable and ideally have long-term prospects before introductions are made. Discussing this with the other parent first is advisable.

This can be a contentious issue but primarily the absent parent should be responsible for the collection and return of the child / children. If the absent parent lives some distance away, then it may be reasonable for a meeting place if it is covenant, to be arranged to assist with the spending time arrangement. If matters cannot be agreed, mediation may be possible to resolve issues, failing which an application to the court would have to be made, for a specific issue order detailing who is responsible for collection and return of the child / children with whom they reside.

Sadly, grandparents do not have an automatic right to see their grandchildren. If no agreement can be reached in mediation, it will be necessary to issue an application to the court for a child arrangement order and ask for leave of the court (permission of the court) to make such an application. If granted there will be a first hearing where it is hoped matters can be agreed, failing which CAFCASS may be appointed to establish what is in the best interests of the children.

CAFCASS are independent court appointed welfare officers, who will meet with the parents and if appropriate, the child/children, to establish the views of all the parties and the recommendation they make is based upon their investigations. They will also undertake a safeguarding check to ensure there are no risks that have not been highlighted. These include police checks, whether there has been any social services involvement and enquiries of the school if relevant. They will then make a recommendation to the court. If matters still cannot be agreed, then a final hearing will be listed for the court to decide.

Child maintenance is agreed either between the parties independently or an assessment made through the Child Maintenance Service – CMS. The court does not get involved with child maintenance save for in limited circumstances. The calculation can be made online via the CMS calculator. This is the easiest and most non-contentious way to find the correct amount of child maintenance that is payable.

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