We are able to assist with any disputes that arise in relation to your children, whether that is through negotiation with other solicitors, court proceedings, or alternative out of court routes.
We have extensive experience in dealing with the issues of where children should live and what contact arrangements should be put in place for the parent who is not living with them. These were historically called 'custody' disputes. However, that terminology is no longer used.
The courts now consider 'contact orders' which specify the level and frequency of contact a child should have with a parent, and 'residence orders' which determine who a child should live with. Courts are frequently making 'shared residence orders' where they feel it is appropriate for a child to have a permanent home with both parents and split their time between the two (although this does not need to be an exactly equal split).
In addition, we can also address the following:-
Financial applications for children
If you have a child or children with a partner who you are not married to and you separate, you may be able to make a financial application in respect of the child or children under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989.
A Schedule 1 application is usually made when one parent does not have sufficient money at separation to re-house themselves and their children. If the other parent has sufficient resources to be able to purchase a property for their use as a home, the court may order them to do so.
However, generally when a former partner is ordered to purchase a property, the courts will often allow that property to remain owned by them and simply require that it can be lived in by the other until the youngest child completes full time education or reaches adulthood.
In some circumstances, the court may also order the former partner to pay a lump sum to meet certain capital needs for the children.
This is a specialist area of family law which our Family Law Solicitors have considerable experience of. If you wish to discuss the possibility of making a Schedule 1 application against your partner, or you are concerned that your former partner may be considering making such an application against you, we can assist.
Child maintenance can be sought by the primary carer of a child (known as the resident parent) from the non-resident parent. This is the case regardless of whether the parents were ever married. Many parents make voluntary agreements between them about the level of child maintenance which should be paid. Child Maintenance Options, a government funded organisation, provides information and support to help parents make a child maintenance arrangement that meets their needs. Their website can be found at http://www.cmoptions.org/
If we, as Family Law Solicitors, are representing you in relation to a divorce, civil partnership dissolution, or separation we will be able to assist in trying to negotiate a figure for child maintenance, along with other financial matters we are addressing on your behalf.
If parents cannot reach an agreement about the child maintenance that should be paid, the resident parent may seek to involve the Child Support Agency (CSA), who will undertake an assessment to calculate how much the non-resident parent should be paying. They will arrange collection of the maintenance and can deal with enforcement if the non-resident parent does not pay.
The CSA has overall jurisdiction for child maintenance and it is therefore open to either parent to seek an assessment from them. If you do reach an agreement about the level of child maintenance directly within divorce or dissolution proceedings and include that within any order obtained from court, this can be replaced by a CSA assessment (if one is sought) after 12 months.
However, in cases where the net income of the non-resident parent is more than £104,000 a year, the resident parent can apply to the court for an order for additional child maintenance. These are known as 'top up' orders and the courts have the power to make a decision on the appropriate level of the 'top up' which will then be incorporated into a court order, which cannot be altered by the CSA, but only by further order of the court.
Regardless of any assessment made by the CSA, the court also still retains the power to make orders to cover the cost of private school fees.