Putting Children FirstJune 30, 2017
Adapting to separation is hard for everyone and where children are involved it is essential that it is handled sensitively. This is not always easy and it will often help to get legal advice and support to ease the transition. Solicitors can help resolve many issues including who a child lives with, when they see the other parent, which school they should go to, what name they are to have, where (geographically) they should live.
It is important for your solicitor to have a full understanding of the relevant background to your case, and to discuss your concerns and objectives in detail. It's often worth thinking about this in advance, if you can. They will then set out the options available to you and assess the best way of reaching a solution.
Your solicitor will either help you in discussing things or, if you wish, contact your partner to raise the issues you don’t agree about. They can help put forward your proposals in order to see whether an agreement can be reached. It is often likely that matters can be resolved simply through correspondence but if not, the solicitor will refer you and your partner to mediation.
Mediators are completely independent. They are trained to help facilitate discussions between you and your partner and explore possible solutions. They cannot offer legal advice but will work with both of you over as many sessions as necessary to see if an agreement can be reached. You are not obliged to mediate but you do have to at least attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) in order to assess whether it would be helpful. If mediation is not appropriate or breaks down for any reason, but there are still significant areas of disagreement which remain, either you or your partner might need to apply to court.
Your solicitor will draft the necessary application to court in order to start a formal court process of consideration and investigation. This is designed to assess what is in the child’s best interest.
There will be an initial hearing where the focus is on seeing if you can reach an agreement with the help of the court appointed child expert (CAFCASS officer). If you cannot reach an agreement, the court will decide what further information it will need in order to make a final decision. This could include statements from both parents, a detailed report by a CAFCASS officer and even a separate hearing to establish the truth of any allegations that have been made. The solicitor will represent you and support you throughout this process through to, if necessary, a contested final hearing. Such hearings are, however, quite rare as most matters do settle.
We appreciate that the cost of legal advice can seem prohibitive but that expert representation and support is extremely important to help you reach a solution. Please contact a member of the team by phone on 0117 929 0451 or by email.