Providing legal advice on family matters requires tact and empathy.
Our team take time and care in dealing with the issues you may face, discussing your circumstances thoroughly with you before explaining the options available, in the strictest confidence.
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Separation and Divorce
Deciding that a relationship has irretrievably broken down and that the only recourse is separation or divorce is a hugely unsettling and upsetting process.
Our experts are there to make the process as pain-free as they can, while ensuring the interests and well-being of clients and especially their children, are carefully considered.
It is not always necessary to proceed to Court to resolve matters and when appropriate, we will try to help clients reach agreement through discussion and mediation. We can provide access to an independent mediator where this solution may offer a viable alternative.
If the relationship has reached a point where separation or divorce is the only way forward, we will provide guidance and support in preparing the petition for divorce and assisting with any settlement for financial and personal matters. If the situation arises, we can also represent clients in court and deal with any litigation throughout the process.
We also provide advice on the dissolution of registered Civil Partnerships.
Arrangements for Children
Separation, divorce or the breakdown of a relationship for an unmarried couple all have the potential to cause considerable distress for any children involved.
Wherever possible we help negotiate arrangements that prioritise the needs of the children, whilst as far as possible, providing both parents with the means to adjust to their new situation, without undue disturbance.
If an agreement cannot be reached, we can assist in preparing an application to the court to determine the child arrangements. The court can be invited to consider who the child or children should reside with and to set out a pattern of time spent with the other parent. The court can also be invited to make a specific issue order (to determine a discreet issue such as schooling) and / or a prohibited steps order (to prevent a party from taking certain action, such as the removal of the child or children from the jurisdiction).
Cases involving domestic abuse can be highly emotive and require particularly sensitive handling as clients may have endured many years of abuse. We can assist in taking steps to obtain a Non-Molestation Order (to prevent further harm or threats of harm) and / or an Occupation Order (excluding a party from a shared home) as required.
Our service also provides advice on personal protection and harassment issues relating to neighbour or associated disputes.
To read our latest legal blog on Domestic Abuse click here.
You can also hear Family Law Expert Sharon Micuta discuss Domestic Abuse on our radio show, Legal Chat with Parfitt Cresswell below
Children & Divorce
One of the most emotive areas of family law, flowing from the separation and divorce process, concerns children.
If you are a parent contemplating divorce or separation, you will understandably be concerned about the impact on your child or children.
We consider that when providing legal advice on family matters, tact and empathy is paramount.
Our team understand what you are experiencing and take time and care in dealing with the issues you may face. We will discuss your particular circumstances thoroughly with you, ensuring you are fully aware of the options available and affording you the opportunity to make the decision that is right for you.
It is often possible to work matters out consensually and we strongly advise you to do so if you can possibly manage it. It is nearly always best for your children, best for you and best for the rest of your family.
We are aware of the importance of putting your children first and that the decisions you make now, will continue to have an effect on them as they grow up.
The court sees children’s welfare as the most important consideration, and this is the overriding objective throughout the whole process.
If an agreement cannot be reached, an application to the court to determine the issue in dispute may be necessary.
Child Arrangement Orders
Previously Orders referred to “contact” and “residence”. This terminology was considered outdated and was replaced in 2014 by reference to whom a child is to “spend time with” and / or “live with”. It is often the case that parents share the care of any child or children, and whilst this time is rarely shared exactly between each parent, a shared care arrangement may still be recorded to reflect both parents’ role.
Prohibited Steps Orders
A prohibited steps order, prevents a party from taking certain action, such as the removal of the child or children from the jurisdiction.
Specific Issue Order
This order enables the court to determine a discreet issue relating to the child, such as in regard to schooling or change of name.
The court, when considering whether to make any order, will always put the child’s welfare first.
Parental Responsibility (PR) reflects all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority a parent of a child has in relation to the child and their property by law, as defined at section 3(1) of the Children Act 1989.
Having PR is not however the same as being a parent. A mother will always have PR for her child. If a mother and father are married or in a civil partnership at the time of the child’s birth, both parents will have PR. If they are not, but the father is named on the child’s birth certificate after 1 December 2003, then the father will have PR. However, if neither of the above scenarios apply, the father will not automatically have PR.
This can however be acquired by:
- marrying or entering into a civil partnership with the mother;
- entering into a PR Agreement with all parties who have PR;
- Obtaining a stand-alone court order or being named in a Child Arrangements Order as the party with whom a child is to live;
- Adopting the child; or
- Becoming the child’s guardian
An individual other than a child's biological parent, such as a same sex parent or step-parent, a grandparent or other relative, or indeed a local authority can obtain PR and more than one party can hold PR at the same time.
Each party can exercise PR independently of the other party / parties unless there is a statutory requirement to consult the other party / parties.
Who Can Apply for a Court Order?
If you want to apply for a court order under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989, you might find you need the Court’s permission to do so.
You do not require permission if you are:
- The parent, guardian or special guardian of a child
- Anyone with parental responsibility
- Anyone named as the party with whom the child is to live in an existing Child Arrangements Order
- Anyone in a marriage or civil partnership where the child is a child of the family
- Anyone with whom the child has lived for at least 3 years
- Anyone who has the consent of each party named in an existing Child Arrangements Order as the party with whom the child is to live
- Anyone who has the consent of the local authority if the child is in their care
- A local authority foster parent - if the child has been living with them for 1 year or more preceding the application
- A relative of the child - if the child has been living with them for 1 year or more preceding the application
- Anyone who has the consent of each party with PR for the child
- Anyone who has PR for the child (not a parent or guardian) by being named in a Child Arrangements Order as the party with whom the child is to spend time
If you are not listed above you, it is likely that you will need to ask the court for permission to apply for a section 8 court order.