Parental disputes and responsibilities

A parent or carer who understands where they legally stand is far better placed to reach a compromise to a dispute over children.

Separation and divorce can be emotionally challenging at the best of times, but when children are involved it can be particularly difficult for parents and care givers, including grandparents.

You might be feeling overwhelmed with your situation – and that’s completely understandable. Just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean you’re immune to feeling anxious and upset. When you’re so heavily immersed in your separation, it can be difficult to step back and work out what’s best. That’s where our family law solicitors can help. Taking a considerate and tactful approach, they’ll advise you in relation to all parental disputes.

Since every family is different, we understand how difficult parental disputes can be; from how much contact children have with you or your partner, where they live or go to school, through to financial considerations.

Our approach to parental disputes

Joanne Matthews, our Head of Family Law, is a keen advocate for resolving parental disputes in a constructive and non-confrontational way, taking the heat out of tense situations.

In 85% of cases, family matters are resolved without the need for Court proceedings and, most importantly, you and your children can move to a more positive place in your life, quicker.

We are experienced at every stage of the parental dispute process, from handling initial negotiations and meetings through to preparing for Court (if needed).

Understanding parental responsibility

Parental responsibility refers to the legal rights, duties, responsibilities, and powers that you have as a parent – essentially, the right to make decisions regarding a child.

A mother will automatically have parental responsibility and so will the father if he is married to the mother when the child is born. However, if unmarried, to have parental responsibility, the father’s name must be on the child’s birth certificate. Where a father does not have parental responsibility, it can be obtained by entering into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother and filing it with the court. Alternatively, he can apply to the court for a parental responsibility order.

Stepparents can also obtain parental responsibility if married to the mother or they are a civil partner of a parent holding parental responsibility. Again, they can either enter into an agreement with the mother or apply to the court for a parental responsibility order.

If you have any questions about parental responsibility, what it is and who has it, please reach out to us for expert advice.

Here to help with family law Burnett Barker

Parental Responsibility Expertise

Our experienced family lawyers have the expertise to advise on all aspects of parental disputes.

Residence and contact: child arrangement orders

Often, the main causes of dispute concern where a child should live and how much contact they should have with the non-resident parent.

If parents are unable to agree where a child should live and much time they should spend with each parent, either party can make an application to the Court for a child arrangement order under the Children Act 1989.

This can be complicated to understand if you are not a family lawyer, but what happens depends on the issue. If your application to the court is about where the child should live, you’ll need to apply for a ‘lives with order’. If however, your concern is how much time the child should spend with the non-resident parent, you’ll need to apply for a ‘spends time with order’.

A ‘spends time with order’ can be specific and include lots of different methods for staying in contact; from direct contact to supervised visitation to indirect communications.

Before making an application, we advise working out what you would like to achieve with one of our family solicitors.

Specific issue order

You might find that you and your ex-partner have vastly different opinions on where to send your children to school, what medical treatment they should receive, and what freedoms they should have.

Before such big decisions are made, all parents with parental responsibility must consent. Sometimes though, this simply isn’t possible and, on those occasions, where all other methods of communication have not worked, an application can be made to the court for a specific issue order to resolve the dispute.

Prohibited steps order

Although we rarely apply for a prohibited steps order, it is an option for parents where one parent intends to take steps that the other parent does not agree with in relation to the child.

For example, a prohibited steps order could be used when one parent suspects the other parent intends to take the child out of the jurisdiction of England and Wales without consent.

Discover your options for a fixed fee

If you want to know where you stand and what your options are, we offer a one-to-one family law consultation for a fixed fee of £149. Most clients discover something they were unaware of in this consultation, which reaffirms how important it is to find out what your options are.

Simply call Burnett Barker Solicitors on 01284 701131. You can also send us a message, or pop in and see us at 20 Whiting Street, Bury St Edmunds - we have free parking on site!

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