Our child custody lawyers provide expert legal advice and representation for parents and guardians involved in disputes over child arrangements. At Moore Barlow, we understand that family disputes can be emotionally challenging, especially when children are involved.
Our child custody lawyers offer a range of services to help you with issues related to children, including custody arrangements, child support, and parental rights. Our goal is to help you achieve the best possible outcome for you and your family.
Doing the best for your children will be one of the biggest concerns and challenges of your divorce or separation. There are many things to consider, such as their day to day practical arrangements, child maintenance and funding their private school fees or further education.
When a relationship breaks down, one of the most important aspects to consider is what the arrangements will be for your children in the future. Your children are also likely to be very concerned about how your separation will impact their relationship with each parent, their schooling and their friends. As one of the UK’s leading family law firms, we can provide the knowledgeable, considered and reassuring legal support you need.
What is child arrangements?
Child arrangements (previously known as child custody or residence) address where the children shall live after a separation, how much time they spend with each parent and the practical aspects of their day-to-day care. Children can live with one parent or there can be a shared care arrangement where the children live with both parents sharing their time equally or otherwise between their two homes.
Agreeing parenting arrangements out of court
This may be the most emotionally difficult part of a divorce or separation. An amicable decision reached out of court is ideal but not always possible in such difficult circumstances. If that isn’t possible, there are other processes available to help you reach a joint decision based on your children’s needs. One of these is mediation which can be used to explore and agree a variety of decisions about the children, not just with whom the children live.
Concluding parenting arrangements through a court
If you have to go to court, the first step is the First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment. The court will appoint a CAFCASS Officer (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service Officer) to carry out an initial safeguarding report. If necessary they may be also be required to prepare a full report on what’s in the best interests of your children. This can take around 12 to 18 weeks. The court will usually attach a lot of importance to the CAFCASS Officer’s recommendations when making a decision about the final arrangements for your children.
If you do not agree with the CAFCASS recommendations, the matter will go to a final hearing when you will both need to give evidence, along with the relevant witnesses and any experts who have been instructed. The judge will then make a final decision about the arrangements for your children.
Many parents find it helpful to agree a Parenting Plan. This is an alternative to pursuing a child arrangements order through the courts requiring the judge to make the decisions about your children’s future. A parenting plan sets out in detail how you both decide to deal with all of the important issues about your children, including:
- communication between you and your partner
- child safety
- child arrangements after divorce (and in the interim)
- how your children will communicate with you when they’re not in your home
- funding arrangements for your children
Separated Parents Information Programme
This is a short group programme where you learn and discuss the best ways to parent your children while you are separated. There are several programme providers and the court frequently directs parents to attend this course as part of your court application.
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Child maintenance or support is not usually dealt with by the courts. Therefore parents are encouraged to reach their own agreement about maintenance for their children. If you can’t reach an agreement, you can approach the Child Maintenance Service [CMS], previously called the Child Support Agency. This can get complicated, so it is sensible to seek legal advice.
The guidelines state that the paying parent should pay a certain percentage of their gross income as maintenance for each of your children who is living with the other parent.
The actual sum varies according to a number of factors, such as how many children you have and how much time they spend with each parent. If current information is not available about the paying parent’s income then CMS can rely on the most recent information filed at the HMRC.
If the paying parent’s income is more than £3,000 per week, the parent in receipt can apply to the court for a ‘top up order’. If you live abroad or your child has special needs, then the court can again make orders about the amount of maintenance.
Payments under the CMS continue until your child is 16 or up to 20 if they remain in full time secondary education or the equivalent to A level.
Who pays school and university fees after a divorce?
If your child is at private school, you’ll need to arrange how to fund that cost, which is separate from child maintenance. Payments are usually made directly to the school and will usually form part of the financial discussions on divorce and separation.
Child maintenance orders end when a child is 18 or finishes full time secondary education, whichever is later. This means you may need to consider how to fund your children if they go to university (referred to as tertiary education).
Financial claims on behalf of children
The financial settlement reached in your divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership will usually include claims concerning your children if relevant. This can cover such things as the payment of school fees, top up of any child maintenance or the funding of specific health or educational needs.
If you were unmarried you can make financial claims on behalf of your children under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. These can include:
- child maintenance, with an element of child carers’ allowance for the parent with care
- lump sum payments for discrete expenses on behalf of the child such as computers, furnishings, dental treatment, etc
- a settlement of property order
A settlement of property order means the paying parent must provide a home for their child and the parent carer until the child is 18 or ends full time secondary education, whichever is later (although the parties can agree between them to extend the period). After this, the property can revert back to the paying parent’s ownership. These types of claims are complex, therefore it is important to take expert legal advice before pursuing such claims.
Is the law different for children of same sex couples?
If your same sex relationship has broken down, your partner who is treated as a legal parent can be responsible for maintaining your child. However, the law concerning same sex couples is complex and constantly evolving, so we strongly advise you to seek our expert legal advice.
What is parental responsibility?
Parental responsibility gives a father or legal parent certain rights and responsibilities regarding a child. Parental responsibility can be acquired in one of three ways:
- if the father is named on the birth certificate
- you agree this between you, in which case a parental responsibility agreement will be drafted and registered
- via a court order
A parent with parental responsibility has the right to be involved in the major decisions concerning the child’s life, such as where they are educated, their religion, the name by which they are known, and the ability to give authority for medical intervention.
About the Moore Barlow family team
We are experts in family and divorce law, providing sensitive, empathetic and experienced advice upon the breakdown of relationships and child related matters.
Moving abroad with a child after divorce
Sometimes a parent moves abroad following a separation or divorce. This can be devastating for the child and the parent left behind. Many parents do work together to sort out how their children will maintain the relationship with each parent and, for example, how much time they spend with them during their holidays.
A child has the right to have a relationship with both parents, and a move abroad will have an inevitable impact on the family. Sometimes parents cannot agree on an arrangement, and if this happens to you, you need to take legal advice. The welfare of your child will always be the primary concern.
Holiday arrangements for separated and divorced parents
Once you have separated or divorced, holiday arrangements for children can sometimes be difficult to agree, along with other important times of the year such as birthdays, family events and divorced parents’ Christmas arrangements. Most parents are able to come to some kind of agreement on these dates and events. This often means that separated or divorced parents take turns on alternate years for annual events.
One consideration for holidays is that if a separated or divorced parent wants to take their child abroad, you may need the permission of the other parent and anyone else with parental responsibility to do so. Taking a child abroad without this permission is considered to be child abduction and is illegal. Usually, a letter from the other parent will suffice as proof of permission. It will need to include their contact details and details of the trip you’re taking. It is also recommended that you take copies of your child’s birth certificate (or adoption papers) and your decree absolute or final order in the divorce with you. This can be especially important if you and your child have different surnames.
If you and your former spouse or partner cannot agree on the arrangements for a holiday or trip abroad, you may need to apply for permission from a court. Moore Barlow can help you with the legal aspects of this, if required.
Who does a child live with after a divorce?
This is usually one of the most difficult issues on a separation or divorce. The answer to this can be a complicated one due to many factors coming into play. If parents are not able to agree the arrangements in mediation or other dispute resolution processes, the court may be required to make that decision and uses a checklist of factors that may be taken into account in order to make the decision that best serves your child’s best interests.
Child arrangement orders
This type of order establishes where the child or children will live and how time is spent with parents. As well as determining where a child lives and who the child spends time with, the court can also determine specific issues such as whether a child should be vaccinated, or even ensuring that the child’s name cannot be changed or they can’t be moved to a different school. Parents are required to try to mediate, if appropriate, before making an application for a child arrangements order.
Moore Barlow can assist with applications for a child arrangements order and guide you through the process from start to finish.
Why choose our child custody solicitors?
Our child custody solicitors are dedicated to providing expert legal advice and support to help you navigate the complexities of child custody disputes. With years of experience and a compassionate approach, we understand the emotional toll that these situations can take on families. We work tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome for you and your children, ensuring that their best interests are always at the forefront of our minds. Choose us for a reliable and trustworthy legal service.
How can our child custody solicitors help?
If you need a child custody solicitor, we can provide expert legal advice and representation to help parents navigate the complex and emotional process of child custody disputes. Our team will work tirelessly to protect the best interests of the child and ensure that their welfare is the top priority. We can assist with negotiating custody arrangements, resolving disputes through mediation or court proceedings, and providing ongoing support and guidance throughout the process.
We have offices in London, Richmond, Southampton, Guildford, Lymington and Woking and offer specialist support with family law issues to clients nationwide. Contact Moore Barlow to find out how we can help your case.
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Frequently asked questions
How to get full custody of a child?
To get full custody of a child, you need to demonstrate to the court that it is in the child’s best interest. Gather evidence of the other parent’s inability to provide a safe and stable environment, such as records of neglect or abuse. Hire a lawyer to guide you through the legal process and present a strong case for full custody.
How much does it cost to go to court for child custody UK?
The cost of going to court for child custody in the UK can vary depending on the complexity and duration of the case, as well as the legal representation involved. Legal fees can range from a few thousand pounds to tens of thousands of pounds.
Who gets custody of child in divorce UK?
In the UK, the court focuses on the best interests of the child when determining custody in a divorce. The court may consider factors such as the child’s relationship with each parent, their wishes and feelings, and the ability of each parent to meet the child’s physical and emotional needs.
What is the process for obtaining child custody?
The process for obtaining child custody typically involves filing a petition with the court, attending court hearings, providing evidence and witnesses, participating in mediation or settlement discussions, and ultimately receiving a court order that determines custody arrangements based on the best interests of the child.
How long does a child custody case usually take?
The duration of a child custody case varies depending on various factors such as the complexity of the case, the willingness of the parties to cooperate, and the court’s availability. On average, it can take several months to a year or more to reach a resolution.
What is the difference between physical custody and legal custody?
Physical custody refers to where a child lives and who takes care of them on a day-to-day basis, while legal custody refers to the authority to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing, such as education, healthcare, and religion.
How do courts decide on the child’s best interest in a custody dispute?
Courts decide on the child’s best interest in a custody dispute by considering several factors, such as the child’s age, health, and emotional and educational needs. They also evaluate the relationships between the child and each parent, as well as any history of abuse or neglect. The court may also consider the child’s preferences if they are old enough to express them.
If I have full custody, does the other parent still have visitation rights?
Yes, typically the parent with full custody can grant visitation rights to the other parent unless a court has specifically denied or restricted visitation in the custody agreement. Both parents usually have the right to spend time with their child unless there are extenuating circumstances that would prevent it.
Can you get legal aid for child custody?
Yes, you can potentially receive legal aid for child custody matters. Legal aid, or government-funded legal assistance, is available to those who meet certain income and resource requirements. The specific criteria and availability of legal aid programs vary by country and jurisdiction. In many cases, legal aid is prioritised for individuals facing significant financial hardship or who are victims of domestic violence. It is advisable to check with your local legal aid office or consult an attorney to determine if you qualify and how to apply for legal aid in child custody cases.
Can I claim on my partners’ house?
When a couple are unmarried, the financial claims are more limited. Usually, the first place to look is at the ownership of the property. If you appear as a joint owner at the Land Registry on the title deeds then it will be very difficult for your ex-partner to suggest that you do not have a claim.
Does a common law spouse exist?
If you remain unmarried during your relationship there are no additional rights that you acquire regardless of the length of time that you have been together. In short, common law husband or wife this is a myth. This only changes in the event that you have children between you. If there are minor children then financial claims can be made on their benefit.
Do children always stay with mum after a divorce?
Where there is a dispute over where the children will live following separation, there is no law or legal bias that means that children always stay with their mother. If the arrangements for the children cannot be agreed then most couples are encouraged to try Mediation. However, if this breaks down or one parent feels they should have ‘custody’ of the children then the decision can be made by a Judge. Unless there are some serious safeguarding issues, a Judge is likely to make sure that children spend quality time with both of their parents. The best interests of the children are going to be the most important factor.
Can the children decide who they live with?
Children under the age of 18 cannot legally make the decision to live with one parent or another. If the parents cannot agree who should have ‘custody’ of the children then the matter will need to be decided by a Judge. As part of the court process, the Judge may want to understand the views of the child or children involved and who they say that they would like to live with. The younger the child, the less likely the court are going to seek their views. However, the views of older children can be taken into account. A child’s views, no matter how old they are, are never decisive, just one factor to be taken into account by a Judge when making the ultimate decision. Children do not always know what is best for them and courts are aware that sometimes parents try and influence a child’s decision about where they want to live.
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Moore Barlow is a highly reputable outfit offering an impressive team of lawyers acting on high-value, complex financial disputes arising out of marriage or relationship breakdown. The team demonstrates particular experience in matters involving corporate assets, properties, inherited wealth and trusts both in the UK and offshore. It also acts on complex private law children cases with a particular focus on child arrangement orders and relocation cases. The firm has additional experience in high-value nuptial agreements, TOLATA proceedings and pension arrangements.
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Moore Barlow are the go-to family team in the area, offering strength in depth. They work collaboratively with each other on cases and ensure that cases are appropriately allocated in accordance with their complexity. The firm is capable of dealing with HNW cases involving complex financial structures, including trust and companies here and abroad. Having other departments with in-house expertise in relation to trusts, companies, wills and other private wealth services enhances the service they provide to clients.
I have felt very comfortable dealing with them despite the difficulty of the situation and have welcomed their calm, objective and outcome-oriented advice and work.
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Highly effective, polished, and impressive. Remarkably calm under any pressure, it would seem. More than capable of the biggest cases. A winning combination of judgement, intelligence, client care, and astute tactics.
There are a number of key individuals who are impressive to deal with when dealing with complex financial matters. The team work well together and appear to deliver a strong service to clients. Many of the team are professional to deal with and have specialist expertise in dealing with high-net-worth individuals.
The team are all very approachable, they offer excellent client service. They provide client’s with realistic and pragmatic advice. They manage their client’s expectations. It is great having them on the other side as they are easy to work with and want to achieve what is best for the clients and their family.