Separating from your partner if you are married, in a civil partnership or have been living together with formalising the relationship inevitably causes distress to you as parents because of the need to make important decisions about the care of your children.
When parents split up, it can be a confusing and emotionally traumatic time for children.
It is important that children are told as soon as possible who will be caring for them and where they will live, so that they can feel as secure as possible under the circumstances.
Duncan Lewis children lawyers always advise clients considering separating to seek legal advice before making the decision, so that arrangements can be put in place for your children at what is likely to be a very emotional time for the whole family.
Under the Children Act 1989, the Family Division of the courts of England and Wales will always place the welfare of the child before parental wishes – and the courts prefer that parents reach amicable agreement over the care of their children when they separate.
Agreeing care arrangements for children after separation can be done informally between parents – the courts generally feel that an informal and amicable arrangement over who is the resident parent has a better chance of working than a less flexible agreement over childcare.
Many couples come to some agreement between themselves, however – called a family-based arrangement – or reach agreement through the services of the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) or Child Support Agency (CSA).
Parents have a legal obligation to provide a home for their children, as well as financial support at least until the age of 16 – and possibly until they have completed secondary education or vocational training.
Parents can sign a Separation Agreement when they split up – and this is a flexible agreement covering any aspects of the separation which the parties wish to formalise, including the care of their children.
A Separation Agreement can be varied with the consent of both parties – but might include details of where the child will live, financial support, child contact for the non-residential parent and agreements over schooling, travel consents and extended family contact.
When parents file for divorce and have children below the age of 16 – or below the age of 18 if they are still in full-time education or training – it is also necessary to complete a form called a State of Arrangement (Form D8A), which advises the court of the childcare arrangements that have been put in place.
In cases where unmarried parents separate:
Duncan Lewis can advise parents on their legal obligations towards each other and their children when they separate – and can also offer legal advice on Separation Agreements involving international marriage and divorce, Islamic marriage and divorce, high net worth individuals and divorce and extended family child contact.
In cases where a relationship has broken down acrimoniously and agreement cannot be reached, Duncan Lewis can advise couples or individual parents on their options under the law, including alternatives to court proceedings, such as Family Mediation, unless there is an outstanding allegation of domestic abuse.
In cases where agreement cannot be reached between a couple, Duncan Lewis can also arrange Family Mediation to help both parties work through the issues and reach a solution, without recourse to the courts.
The courts will always take into account the welfare of the child so working through any differences within lawyer supported Family Mediation can help avoid traumatic court action.
Both parents can appoint their own Duncan Lewis child care lawyer to give independent legal advice at every stage of the mediation process – Duncan Lewis’ own Mediators include Resolution qualified Professional Practice Consultants.
Duncan Lewis is ranked by the Legal 500 2014 for its Family & Matrimonial work – and the Duncan Lewis team includes Advanced Members of the Law Society’s Family Panel, and members of the Law Society Children Panel – so our team is well placed to help you with any issues arising from child law and separation.
Duncan Lewis children lawyers offer a fixed fee for an initial client interview and assessment of a private child matter involving child law and separation.
After a case has been assessed, it is usually possible for a fixed fee arrangement to be put in place – and Duncan Lewis will always advise clients of the costs in advance.
Duncan Lewis is also one of the UK’s largest providers of Legal Aid family law services – including child care law – and in some cases may be able to offer Legal Aid funding for child care cases, including help with the costs of applying for court orders if a client is on benefits or has a low income.
Duncan Lewis children lawyers always advise clients who are seeking help with child care matters – or who are in dispute over separation and child care arrangements – to get in touch as soon as possible before the situation escalates.
Once you have contacted Duncan Lewis, we can act swiftly in any child care matter and put in place measures to help resolve the issues and prevent further dispute and/or legal costs mounting up.
For expert legal advice on all child care matters – including child law and separation – contact Duncan Lewis Children Lawyers on 020 7923 4020.