Category: Child Law

Advice for easing the stress of a separation for children

Tension and emotions can run high during a separation, so it’s important to take steps to reduce stress for any children involved.
It’s normal for children to feel upset, angry and anxious if their parents are separating or getting a divroce. It can feel like their whole world is being turned upside down, so it’s important to do everything you can to make the transition less painful and confusing.

You can help your child to cope with the upheaval of a separation using the following advice.

Avoid the blame game
No matter what the circumstances of the separation, it is important to avoid playing the blame game in front of your child. Keep hurtful or distressing details about the reasons behind your separation private from your child to prevent them feeling torn or stressed about their relationship with either parent.

Minimise conflict
Try to keep all communications civil and polite in front of the children. Avoid talking about legal proceedings or conflict within earshot of your child to minimise confusion, stress and worry.

Minimise disruption
At a time that is filled with turbulence, it’s important to retain as much consistency and routine in your child’s life as possible. Maintaining routine will help to comfort them and keep them feeling safe and secure.

Keep them in the loop
As soon as decisions have been finalised about living arrangements, discuss them openly with your child. Chances are they will be worrying about what is going to happen next, so keeping them in the loop and talking honestly with them as much as possible can help to reassure them.

Make time for your child and tell them you love them
Sometimes the best thing you can do for your child is to be there for them, holding them and reassuring them that you love them. Life can be hectic, emotional and stressful during a separation, but don’t forget to take time out for 1-on-1 quality time with your child. Go out, do something fun and laugh together, you will find that it makes you both feel better.

Listen to them and acknowledge their feelings
Whilst communicating clearly with your child is very important, so is listening. Let your child express their worries, feelings and emotions to you, whether that’s using their words or through their behaviour. Acknowledge that this is a hard time for them and legitimise their feelings. Let them know that it is ok to feel sad or angry now and that things will get better.

For help or advice with separation law or children law, get in touch with our team of specialist family law solicitors here at Lund Bennett by calling us on 0161 927 3118.

Christmas Arrangements for Children

It may seem early to be thinking about Christmas, but over the past few weeks the weather has well and truly changed, and winter is in the air. Now is the time that separated parents are starting to sort out arrangements who and where their children will spend time with over the Christmas period.

It’s not easy to undertake this. Christmas at the best of times is an emotional time of the year and there is a lot of pressure on parents to give their children a magical and memorable time. Splitting the 12 days of Christmas amongst more than one family can be challenging and often brings up feelings of resentment and nostalgia for times past. Balancing these two aspects is no simple task.

For the majority of families, parents are able to navigate this tricky time without the need for legal representation. Others however, for a number of reasons, need some additional help and guidance to formalise arrangements appropriate and fair to the individual circumstances. Court proceedings should always be the last resort but if these are initiated our advice is that legal representation should always be sought if possible.

If you have a family law query, then please contact our team at Lund Bennett Law LLP on 0161 924 0079.

Who decides where a child lives after their parents separate?

Any separation can be difficult, but one that involves children can be particularly challenging and emotional.

The biggest decision that couples with children will need to make if they separate, is the children’s living arrangements.

Where possible, it is always easiest and less stressful for everyone involved if the family can come to an amiable agreement together.

However, this is not always possible. In instances where parents do not agree on where a child should live, they may need to seek help from one or more of the following:
•A solicitor specialising in family law.
•Mediation.
•The Family Court.

No matter which route you take to help decide the best living arrangements for your children, the welfare of the children is always considered first and foremost.

Family law solicitor
A family law solicitor will be able to advise you on all avenues open to you and provide you with sound legal advice and guidance.

Mediation
Mediation is a process guided by a trained, impartial, third-party that allows the two parties to have a constructive discussion and hopefully negotiate an outcome that all parties are happy with.

The Family Court
If an agreement still cannot be reached, then it may be necessary to apply to the Family Court for one or more orders to be made. A child arrangement order will decide who the child will live with, who they will spend time with, and when. In some cases, it may also be relevant for the court to issue a specific issue order or a prohibited steps order.

Lund Bennett are family law specialists based in Altrincham and Manchester. For legal help and guidance regarding disputes about child living arrangements, mediation services, or help applying for a court order, get in touch with our team of specialist solicitors by calling us on 0161 927 3118.

Child cases starting in the family courts continue to rise

Following an influx in new childcare cases in the family courts, the President of the Family Law Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane has launched a public consultation into our current system.  At the launch he described those working in the court system as needingto “run up a down escalator” to deal with the amount of cases progressing through the courts.

Last year there was a staggering 53,164 private children cases involving 123,334 children. There is no sign that this rise will abate in the coming years.

Another factor putting pressure on the family court stems from the cuts to family legal aid. Under the current system only those who can demonstrate that they are both victims of domestic violence and on a low income qualify for family legal aid. Because of this, more-and-more litigants are representing themselves at court without the assistance of legal advice.

We would always recommend that clients seek independent legal advice when undergoing family proceedings and before attending court.

One aim of the McFarlane review is to identify cases that could be resolved through mediation rather than through the court system. A quarter of cases coming before the courts do not involve domestic violence or concerns about the safety of a child so may be suitable for negotiations between solicitors.

We have a breadth of experience in all aspects of children matters and are able to advise our clients in a sympathetic and pragmatic manner.

If you require legal advice or support, give our team of family law specialists here at Lund Bennett Law LLP a call on 0161 924 0079.

How can I gain parental responsibility for my child?

Without parental responsibility you may miss out on having a say in important decisions to do with your child’s life.

It is a common misconception that being a parent automatically grants you legal parental responsibility of your child.

Only those with legal parental responsibility can make important life decisions for a child.

The kinds of decisions that require parental responsibility include those to do with:

  • Education
  • Health and medical
  • Taking a child abroad
  • Religion
  • Child’s name

Parental responsibility is legally defined as: “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property.”

Who has parental responsibility?

Mothers automatically gain parental responsibility at the birth of their child.

A father will gain parental responsibility if:

  • He is married to the woman when the child is born.
  • The child was born after December 1st2003 and the father is listed on the child’s birth certificate.

How can a father gain parental responsibility?

Fathers without parental responsibility of their children can obtain it using one of the following methods:

  • Marrying the child’s mother.
  • Having his name registered on the birth certificate.
  • Entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother.
  • Obtaining a parental responsibility order from the court.
  • Obtaining a child arrangement order from the court.

Who else can gain parental responsibility?

In some situations, it may be appropriate for another family member to gain parental responsibility for a child. This could include a step-parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle.

In these instances, it is possible to apply to the court for a residence order or a special guardianship order.

If you require help obtaining parental responsibility of a child, get in touch with our team of specialist family law solicitors here at Lund Bennett by calling us on 0161 927 3118.

 

How does the court decide whether to grant an occupation order?

When deciding whether to grant an occupation order, the court uses two tests to consider the effects that making the order would have on all parties involved.

When handling domestic abuse cases, the court has a duty of care to the applicant, the respondent, and any children involved in the case.

Granting an occupation order can temporarily provide victims of domestic violence a safe place to live by removing their spouse from the shared home.

The court uses the evidence provided and two tests to decide whether an occupation order is the best course of action.

The ‘balance of harm’ test

When carrying out the balance of harm test it is the court’s duty to consider and balance the level of harm likely to be caused to the applicant, the respondent and any relevant children, if the order was or wasn’t made.

Section 33(7) of the Family Law Act 1996 states that the court must grant an occupation order if they believe that the applicant or any relevant child is likely to suffer significant harm attributable to the conduct of the respondent if an order is not made.

Exceptions to this rule occur when the court believe that the respondent or child are likely to suffer significant harm or greater harm than the applicant if the order is made. In cases that involve a child, the child’s wellbeing is always the court’s paramount consideration.

The ‘core criteria’ test

The core criteria test takes into consideration the applicant’s relationship to the respondent and entitlement to the property.

If the applicant is entitled to the property, then according to Section 33(6) of the Family Law Act the court must then consider the following core criteria.

  • The housing needs and resources of each of the parties and of any relevant child.
  • The financial resources of each party.
  • The likely effect of any order, or of any decision by the court not to exercise its powers, on the health, safety or well-being of the parties and of any relevant child.
  • The conduct of the parties in relation to each other.

If the applicant is not entitled to the property then some additional factors will be taken into consideration, including, whether any children are involved, the length of the relationship, and the length of time since the relationship came to an end.

If you require help, support, or legal advice relating to domestic abuse or occupation orders, please give our team of family law specialists here at Lund Bennett a call on 0161 927 3118.

Do I need consent from my ex to change our child’s name?

If a parent wishes to change their child’s surname, they should first seek the consent of any other person with parental responsibility.

There are several reasons why a parent may wish to change their child’s name after a separation or divorce. If the parents were married, then it is quite common for one party to revert to their maiden name. Similarly, if one person remarries, they may wish for the child to take their new family name.

Whatever the reason for the name change, everyone with parental responsibility should consent to the change in writing before it can be changed.

When there is consent

If all parties with parental responsibility are happy with the proposed name change then the change can be made via deed poll. If the child in question is aged between 16 and 18 then they too must sign the deed poll to consent to the change of name.

When there isn’t consent

If your ex disagrees with the name change and you cannot get their consent, then you will need to apply for a Specific Issue Order to change the child’s name.

The court will then decide whether the name change is in the best interests of the child. A few factors that will influence their decision includes the length of time the child has had their existing name, the reasons for the change, the effect changing or not changing their name could have on the child, and the child’s wishes.

Specific Issue Orders can also be requested by the opposing parent in order to prevent the name change.

Requesting a Specific Issue Order

If you require a Specific Issue Order to either apply to change your child’s name or prevent it being changed, get in touch with our team of specialist family law solicitors here at Lund Bennett by calling us on 0161 927 3118.

Relocating Children Abroad Without Consent

Sometimes when a relationship breaks down a partner may wish to relocate with the children to a place where they will have a strong support network or perhaps new career opportunity. This can in some cases be worked out with an agreement between a couple but in cases where the move is abroad, this can result in disputes that may end with criminal charges being brought if official permission has not been granted.  

These criminal charges are not to be taken lightly and can even end up with the parent who took the child abroad without consent facing a trial. This is because it is classed as an offence under English law to remove a child from the country without the consent of all concerned.  

This means that it is essential to obtain consent before making the decision to travel abroad with children even for a holiday.  

Even if official consent it sought, a parent who does not wish for their children to be taken abroad can submit a defence against their children being taken abroad. It is then up to the court to decide if it is in the child’s best interests and their welfare will not be impacted by their relocation abroad. 

This I why it is essential in these cases to obtain legal advice at the earliest stage to ensure that the reasons provided to the court for a child’s removal from the country will survive scrutiny.

What Happens To Joint Mortgages During And After Divorce

It is very common for married couples to take on a joint mortgage on their home but if a marriage ends in divorce it isn’t easy to make a clean break when the lender still expects payments to be kept up as before.  

Attempting to negotiate a way out of a joint mortgage will of course depend on individual circumstances. Also, if there are children involved, things can get even more complicated particularly if the couple relied on each other’s incomes to be able to afford a mortgage in the first place.  

Then there are cases where the partner who has custody of the children cannot afford repayments on their own when they either work part time or they care for the children full time.  In these cases the hope is that a former spouse will continue to make the mortgage payments even if they no longer live in the property.  

This however is asking a lot when that person will wish to move on with life after the marriage has ended.  

If you are the person left in a property unable to make the mortgage payments if your former partner refuses to pay their half, then you can contact your local Citizens Advice about potential benefits you may be able to receive.   

If you do have sufficient funds to cover the mortgage then you may be able to have the mortgage transferred to you as part of a clean break divorce by consent.  

New laws allow unpaid child maintenance to be taken from joint accounts

Unpaid child maintenance backlog in the UK is at £3.8bn. At present, if a parent owes maintenance, payment can only be taken from a bank account held in their sole name. The government has stated that a ‘small minority’ are avoiding payments by opening a joint account with their new partner.

From early 2018, the Child Maintenance Service will have the power to recover child maintenance arrears from a bank account that is held in the joint names of a parent who is required to pay child maintenance and another person.

The Department for Work and Pensions has said that safeguards will be put in place when deducting funds from a joint account. One of these safeguards is that money will only be taken from a joint account when the paying parents does not have their own bank account or if there is not enough money in their own account. Bank statements will also be analysed to establish which funds belong to the paying parent and both named account holders will have a right to make their case before any money is taken.

The Minister for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance has stated ‘Our priority is for children to get the support they need. Only a small minority of parents try to cheat their way out of paying towards their children and this new power will tackle those who do’.

Securing child maintenance payments from a former partner can be difficult. Please contact a member of our team today on 0161 927 3118 to discuss your situation.