As a family law solicitor I am often consulted by parents, usually fathers (and so for the purposes of this article I will assume that is the situation), who are determined to continue to be a big part of their child’s life despite splitting from the child’s mother. Those fathers that I meet that find themselves in that situation are keen to spend as much time as possible with their child and would not want to ever miss an important occasion such as a Birthday, Christmas or Holidays. Those fathers are so dedicated to their child that if suitable arrangements cannot be agreed between them and their ex-partner they will engage the services of someone like myself and embark on what is sometimes a long and expensive process though the courts to ensure that they remain a constant and important part of their child’s life.
But what if the father is not like the usual father described above and does not want to spend time with, or be involved in their child’s life or perhaps does not want to be as involved as the mother would like them to be? What happens then, how can the mother force the father to be involved? How does the law work for children in that situation?
Quite frankly, it does not. There is nothing in law which can force a parent to be involved or more involved in their child’s life if they choose not to be.
The right to spend time with a parent is the child’s right, not the parents’, but if the parent does not want to spend time with their child then that child’s right is lost. How can the court or anyone else force a parent to spend time with their child? Simply, they can not. Sadly, if a parent decides that they do not want to be involved in their child’s life or does not want to spend regular, quality time with their child there is no way to force them to do so.
A child has a right to spend time with both parents and if one parent is trying to prevent the other from spending time with the child then that parent would be able to rely on the law to determine whether or not it is in the child’s best interest to spend time with them. The importance of children having relationships with each parent following separation was reinforced by the Children and Families Act 2014. The court can, upon application of a parent, make orders relating to the living arrangements of a child and when, where and by what means that child will spend time with the other parent.
The frequency and amount of time a child will spend with each parent will differ from family to family. There is no formula to calculate what amount of time is suitable and there is no precedent as to what a child arrangements order will look like, it will depend on the individual family and their circumstances. Equally, there is no legal definition as to what would amount to a reasonable amount of time. Some parents spend an equal amount of time with their child, some parents split their time between weekdays and weekends or every other weekends. There is no right or wrong, it is whatever works best for the child.
If you are in this difficult position, Pinney Talfourd are here to help. We have a large experienced and dedicated team of specialist family lawyers and we would be happy to help you through this difficult time. We can offer late appointments from Monday to Thursday in each of our offices in Upminster, Hornchurch and Brentwood and your initial 30 minute consultation will be free.
Resolution is a community of family law professionals who subscribe to a Code of Practice to assist working with families and individuals to resolve issues in a constructive way.
The family team at Pinney Talfourd are all proud to be members of Resolution and subscribe to their Code of Practice which has recently been revised.
The ethos of the Code is to encourage families to deal with their issues without conflict or confrontation, to support and encourage them to put forward the best interests of their children first, to act with honesty, integrity and objectivity and to strive to resolve matters so far as it is possible to do so without the need to apply to Court.
A full copy of the Code of Practice can be seen here: http://www.resolution.org.uk/site_content_files/files/code_of_practice_full_version_web.pdf
As part of the campaign, Resolution will be attending Parliament to lobby for a change in the law to include ‘no fault’ divorce and improving the rights of cohabiting couples.
It is never too early to start working with the other parent to sort out which part of the coming Christmas holidays your child or children will spend with each of you.
You always know Christmas is around the corner when the shops start selling cards and gifts, lights go up in offices and shops - even though it is only the second week of November!
If your child or children live with their your ex spouse or ex partner, then it is never too early to start working with the other parent to sort out which part of the coming Christmas holidays your child or children will spend with each of you.
It’s a good idea to try and share the time equally and alternate from year to year, especially when your children are young, so that as the years go by, you can both enjoy the experience of waking up on Christmas morning and opening their presents with them. It will always be best for your child or children if you can agree this without the need for the Court to get involved.
However, if you cannot agree on a schedule of time that your child or children will spend with each of you, you may need to apply to Court for an Order, which is now called a Child Arrangement Order (we no longer use the phrases ‘access’, ‘contact’, ‘custody’ or ‘residence’ when talking about children), though save in limited circumstances you must at least try and reach an agreement through mediation otherwise you will not be able to apply to the Court for a Judge to sort things out.
When a financial settlement is reached in divorce proceedings it is important that this is recorded within a consent order. This will ensure that all claims that both parties can make against the other are fully resolved and the terms are embodied within the consent order. Once approved and sealed by the court they become enforceable upon Decree Absolute (final decree) being granted.
Therefore if one party refuses to comply with the implementation of the order the other party can apply to the court to seek enforcement and the application can include asking the court to make an order for costs against the offending party.
It is therefore beneficial to both parties that a consent order, to reflect all terms of a full and final settlement, is put in place before Decree Absolute is granted.
Without this neither party are protected. Either party could apply to the court for a further order in relation to the matrimonial finances even if the parties have already agreed to the division of net proceeds of sale or a transfer of the marital home to the other party.
Currently in England both men and women, or shall we say girls and boys, can marry at the age of 16, with their parent’s consent. Many will say this is far too young to marry with or without the consent of a parent. Quite often, young people who marry at the age of 16 miss out on educational opportunities, particularly where they reach the age of 16 before finishing secondary education, in those cases some do not even finish the school year and take their GCSE’s.
There is a private members Bill currently going through parliament to raise the age of consent to marry or enter into a civil partnership, for both men and women, to 18 years old.
The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill received its second reading in the House of Lords on Friday 21st October 2016. At this stage there will have been a general debate on all aspects of the Bill. The date for the next stage, the committee stage, at which there will be a line by line reading and examination of the Bill, is yet to be announced.
This Bill was introduced to parliament by Baroness Tonge and concentrates on the problems in marriages of young persons between the ages of 16-18. The Bill also seeks to create an offence of causing a person under the age of 18 to enter into a marriage or civil partnership, which is in line with The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 which made forced marriage a criminal offence.
It is hoped that the Bill will assist in preventing forced marriages, particularly in circumstances where young people marry between the ages of 16-18 with their parent’s encouragement and, so as to not disappoint their family, these young people go along with the marriage consensually regardless of their own wishes/feelings. If this Bill is passed, these marriages will be no more.