Children and the Courts

The welfare of the children is the court’s paramount concern and in the absence of any other factors, it best serves a child’s welfare to have a good relationship with both of its parents.

Mediation must be attempted unless assessed as inappropriate or there is a history of violence between the parents, and is often the shortest route.

We deal only with privately funded cases involving children and the courts. Funding through Legal Aid is only available in cases of violence to those of limited means but this is very restricted, or for “public law” cases to parents where the local authority has applied for a care order regarding the children (public law matters are not dealt with in any further detail here). If you believe you are eligible for Legal Aid funding, we shall discuss this with you and give you the details of solicitors who can offer assistance under the Legal Aid scheme.

Applications can be made for a wide range of orders including:

  • parental responsibility
  • contact
  • residence
  • specific issues (eg schooling, moving, religious observance)

Adults who are not parents may make applications for such orders but will probably have to seek formal permission from the court to do so.

In general the starting point for the court will be to promote the child’s opportunity to have a good relationship with both parents.

Each dispute is different and will be resolved individually and any sensible practical solution should be suggested to the court (or mediator), there are no rules governing the amount of contact a parent should have, just principles.

The child has a right to a good relationship with its parents, adults have a right to family life and all have a right to a fair trial (not limited to criminal matters). For these rights to co-exist, openness and truthfulness is essential, co-operation is ideal and some compromise may be needed.

The practicalities of travel, school, work and expense will all be relevant. Wider families may be included if helpful in promoting that opportunity, and excluded if not.

The court will not have time to listen to the whole family and circle of friends, which exercise can be hugely divisive, but will seek to confine evidence and hearings to the parents only.

 


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