When it comes to family law, emotions run high for everyone involved and it’s rarely a pleasant experience for anyone.
You will have the benefit of our specialised family law team which is made up of highly experienced lawyers.
If you need legal advice on any issue relating to children then you will receive a level of expertise and understanding that can only be gained by specialising in Child Care law.
Issues involving children, whether they relate to the local authority or within the family itself, need to be dealt with by those who understand how the law can impact you and your family.
Our family law team in Southport provide sensitive and straightforward advice to help you through from start to finish. If you need expert intervention, we will put you in touch with the best people to use and any relevant support agencies.
Legal Aid is available depending on your circumstances. Please ask for details.
What issues does family law include?
Generally, family law is a very broad field and includes any issues relating to family or domestic matters. These include matters relating to property or finance through settlements or distribution of assets, matters relating to relationships and matrimony such as divorce, separation, or domestic violence, and matters relating to children such as adoption, custody, and child abuse.
There are also some less obvious fields that family lawyers are trained in which include inheritance and trusts/wills, certain insurance claims, and matters relating to retirements and pensions.
Family law included both public and private law cases and if necessary cases can be dealt with in County Courts, the Family Division of the High Court, and in Magistrates Courts through Family Proceedings Courts.
With such personal issues coming under family law, our expert team of family lawyers are trained in working empathetically, making the process as clear and as easy to understand as possible. And as we are members of Resolution, we strive to work to come to constructive conclusions with as little conflict as possible while keeping the best interest of any children at the forefront.
What is child maintenance?
Even if you never see your child or children, as a parent you still have a responsibility of care towards them that includes paying for the cost of raising them.
If one parent does not have day-to-day care of a child or children, then it can be agreed via a family agreement that they will pay money (child maintenance) to the other parent. The sum can be determined privately between involved parties or it can be determined for you by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).
The amount that the CMS decide can vary as it depends on a number of factors that will all differ between families such as income, number of children, and division of care between parents. You can use the CMS calculator on the .gov website to receive an approximation of what you will be asked to pay or what you will potentially receive.
If you are or were experiencing domestic abuse and want to seek child maintenance payments then then the CMS will act on your behalf, so you do not have to contact the other parent directly. On top of this, the CMS waive their application fee for cases involving domestic abuse.
Funds received via child maintenance do not affect yours or your children’s benefits but may affect your Council Tax Reduction depending on your local council.
You will not have to pay child maintenance if you share the care of your child or children equally with their other parent, if you are in full-time education with no income, or if you are in prison.
What is parental responsibility?
If you have parental responsibility for a child or children, then you have to provide a home for, and be able to protect and maintain, said child.
A mother will usually always assume parental responsibility for their child, but a father will have parental responsibility under specific circumstances. If the father was married to the mother of the child, at the time of birth or later, or if he is named on the birth certificate for a child born after 1st December 2003, then he will have parental responsibility.
Parents of a child must ensure they are supporting their child financially regardless of their parental responsibility status.
For parents who are separating, it can be helpful to agree on child arrangements privately between yourselves with the help of your solicitors or family mediators. These agreements do not need to be legally binding but having a solicitor draft a consent order can be a very wise decision when making arrangements.
There can also be circumstances where a child will have more than two individuals with parental responsibility attached to them. If you are connected to a child, for example if you are their father or a step-parent, then you can apply for parental responsibility from the court. If there is a disagreement between yourself and the mother of the child, then you will have to file for a court order which currently costs £215.
Do I have the right to see my child?
As a parent, along with the responsibilities you do have to your child, you also have the right to have a relationship with your child and be involved in their upbringing if it will benefit the child. If there are disagreements between parents on how they will see their child then there are a range of Contact Orders that can be issued by the court which will rectify this.
Contact Orders detail the arrangements that allow a child to visit and communicate with the court ordered individual and can vary from Direct Contact Orders to Indirect Contact Orders, with a multitude of options in between that can be issued on a case-by-case basis.
However, Contact Orders are a child’s right and will be put in place in the best interest of the child’s welfare, not what the parents want.
What constitutes a fair arrangement for a Court Order?
When issuing a Court Order, the court will always keep the best interest of the child in mind which will depend on very individual factors.
However, the court will pay specific attention to several factors that are laid out in the Children Act 1989 that include:
- The physical, emotional, and educational needs of the child. This does not focus on finances as financial orders can be put in place for parents with less material wealth.
- The wishes of the child – this will usually be presented to the court via a welfare report.
- Are the current arrangements working? If a change to circumstances will have a detrimental effect on the child then this will be considered before issuing an order.
- Has the child suffered or is the child at risk of suffering? This includes both physical and mental suffering, and also includes any suffering the child might incur if they do not see a parent.
- How capable are the parents in caring for the child? Also, if there are any other individuals connected to a parent, such as a new partner, that will interact with the child or have an impact on the child’s relationship with the parent, does this affect the capability of that parent to care for the child?
Other ways our solicitors can help: