We have seen a huge increase in the number of clients coming to see us to report difficulties around Arrangements for their Children. This can range from fathers not being able to see their baby or toddler, especially if they have never lived with the mother. We might have teenagers refusing to have anything to do with one parent; children whipped away to another part of the country without any prior warning.
The issues are many; parents with addictions, a parent who has found a new love and frankly the children don’t share that love, there may have been domestic violence, feelings of abandonment, coercive control you name it we deal with it.
The Children Act covers most of these issues. It is possible to make applications under the act in relation to what you may call custody/access/contact or residence. All are now known as Arrangements for Children. It is also possible to make an application for a Specific Issue to be determined, most commonly this tends to relate to which school a child will attend.
For example, a client of mine, “Amy” moved from Newcastle to Sunderland. She moved in with a new partner and her child, “Sam” who spent time between his father and Amy. It was a rather acrimonious relationship between the parents with each wanting Sam to go to school nearest to their home. Amy was expecting another child, and she wanted both children to be able to attend school together.
Despite sending the couple to mediation to try to settle their differences, no compromise could be found; it was necessary to make an application to the court to determine the matter. In that case, the court felt that Amy’s relationship was very new if it ended then Amy would probably have to move house again because she was living in a property that her partner owned. They, therefore, concluded that Sam should spend Monday to Friday with his dad and should attend the school nearest to dad’s home.
When determining issues like this, the court is looking for stability for a child. The same will apply if you want to move your child from one end of the country to the other or move abroad. Where will you be living, who will you be living with, are they a safe person (their background will be checked), how will you support your child financially, how often will they see the other parent?
It is possible to make an application to the court to prevent something from happening. If one parent decides to move to a different area, they will need to register the children at a different school. But what if that parent was in the habit of moving and taking the children with them? Children are not chattels; they have feelings. They may not wish to move again; it takes time to build up friendship groups and a sense of belonging.
They may be involved with sports clubs; they may have their other parent or other family members living nearby.
The court considers this from the child’s point of view. What is in the best interests of the child?
Increasingly people move long distances for work or university, about 15% of our clients are from overseas. Many of our clients have left their families behind, and when they have a child, they start a new family unit. If the relationship with their partner or spouse fails, it is natural to wish to return to live near their birth family. However, there is now a child to think about. Your child has the right to see both of his or her parents on a regular basis unless it would be unsafe to do so.
It is understandable that when your relationship comes to an end, you may be in a terrible place emotionally. You may have suffered from domestic violence, and your children may have witnessed this. Your partner or spouse may have left you for someone else, and you may be trying to cope with rage, depression, distress for your children.
Each case is very different. If your children have genuinely suffered at the hands of a parent, then a court would not necessarily promote contact with that parent. The older a child is, the more their voice is heard by the court.
The most important thing is that a child is listened to, not dictated to. You may be furious that your spouse has left you for someone else, but that is not your child’s fault, they may still wish to see their parent.
What if you are the spouse who has left? You are in love with your new partner, and everything is rosy in the garden. But it probably isn’t for your children. They may feel abandoned; they may be trying to support their other parent. If you ask them how they are, they will probably just give you the bland “fine.” But put yourself in their shoes, try to imagine being their age and this happening.
The one thing they are most likely to want is time with you alone, not time with you and your new partner. That can come later when your child has become used to this new world.
Ultimately my message is that in these situations, the needs of the child must come first, the court expects this.
If you need any help about any of the above issues, then please don’t hesitate to contact us:
Family Law Solicitors Newcastle: 0191 284 6989
Family Law Solicitors Sunderland: 0191 567 6667
Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Complete our Online Enquiry Form
You can also park opposite our Sunderland Office on John Street.