Private Children Law: Frequently Asked Questions

23rd April 2021 10:46 am Comments Off on Private Children Law: Frequently Asked Questions

My partner and I are separating, what are my rights as a parent?

Family lawyers tend to use the term “parental responsibility” rather than “parental rights”. A mother automatically has parental responsibility for her child. However, parental responsibility is only granted to a father if he:

  • Is married to the child’s mother when the child is born;
  • Is named on the birth certificate when the child’s birth is registered (births after 1 December 2003);
  • Was not named on the birth certificate but the birth is re-registered to include his name with the mother’s consent (births before 1 December 2003);
  • Has a parental responsibility agreement with the mother;
  • Has a parental responsibility order from the court;
  • Has a residence order from the court; or
  • Becomes the child’s guardian.

A person with parental responsibility should be consulted about important day-to-day decisions affecting their child, even if the parents have separated.

My partner and I are separating, does there need to be a formal agreement about our children?

No, there does not need to be a formal agreement or court order setting out the arrangements for your children. Ideally, you will agree arrangements for the care of the children between you.

If, as parents, you cannot resolve matters, you may wish to consider mediation. This can be both faster and more cost-effective than going to court. Otherwise, it will be necessary to apply to the court for an order setting out who your children are to live with and spend time with.

What orders can the court make in respect of your children?

The most commonly applied for types of orders are those contained in Section 8 of the Children Act 1989, as follows:

  • Child Arrangements Order: Determines who the child is to live with and spend time with.
  • Prohibited Steps Order: Prohibits a parent from doing something specified in the order, without the consent of the court.
  • Specific Issue Order: Enables the court to give directions on a specific issue, which has arisen or may arise in the future.

Generally, these types of orders will continue until the child attains the age of 16. However, the court can vary or discharge and existing order in the event that one of the parties makes an application to the court.

Can arrangements be altered if circumstances change?

Yes, you can apply to the court for existing arrangements to be altered if circumstances change. However, only if the court considers that a change is in the child’s best interests, will it alter an existing order.

Can I stop my former partner from seeing my child?

It is usually considered to be in the best interests of children to have some contact with their other parent and you should not allow your own feelings towards your former partner to influence this. However, if there is a genuine reason why it is not in your child’s best interests to have contact with their other parent (for example, if you suspect abuse), then you can apply to the court for an order to prevent contact.

What can I do if my former partner will not let me see my children?

If you have not already applied to the court for a Child Arrangements Order, then you can apply to the court for one. These types of orders regulate where children live and with whom they spend time.

If you have already been granted a Child Arrangements Order and your former partner is still preventing you from seeing your children, then you can return to court. The court will likely take action against your former partner for breaching the existing Child Arrangements Order.

My former partner is failing to pay child maintenance. What can I do?

The Child Maintenance Service will take action if child maintenance is not paid. If the paying parent normally pays you through the Child Maintenance Service, then immediate action will be taken and you will not need to do anything. If the paying parent normally pays you directly, then you will need to ask the Child Maintenance Service to take action. The Child Maintenance Service may charge you if they are required to enforce payment of child maintenance. A list of their charges is available on the Government’s website.

If child maintenance is being paid to you under a court order, then you may be able to return to court if your former partner fails to pay you. The court may be able to help you by ordering that child maintenance be deducted from your former partner’s earnings each month and sent to you.

Contact us

Contact one of our family solicitors on 01628 631051 or email family@colemans.co.uk to make an appointment.


Categorised in: Family Law

This post was written by Colemans Solicitors LLP

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