Problems with regard to children often arise upon the breakdown of a relationship. This concerns:
(a) Residence (with whom a child should live)
(b) Contact (how often a child sees the other parent)
(c) Prohibited steps (whether either party should be prevented from taking a particular action, such as moving abroad with a child)
(d) Specific issues (the resolving of a dispute concerning a particular aspect of a child’s upbringing, for example, religious education)
Your child’s best interests
Most of the time, the concerns regarding children are resolved by clarification of each parent’s wishes and viewpoints and the setting up of a clear arrangement. It is better for the parties to agree on arrangements concerning the children. Such agreed arrangements are usually adhered to and further problems avoided. Our solicitors can help bypass the hostilities which often exist between the parties, enabling them to come to a reasonable compromise.
Reaching an agreement
Firm court action can be taken to ensure a child’s best interests are taken care of. If this is necessary, the court has a duty to progress cases concerning children as quickly as possible. If a court application is made by one of the parties, a hearing is listed usually within a few weeks. The parties attend with their advisors and negotiations should take place prior to going before a judge. If an agreement is reached, the judge can make an order there and then.
When no agreement is reached
Where the matter is not resolved, further directions are made by the judge which will usually include a report to be prepared by the Court Welfare Officer, now known as the CAFCASS officer. Once the report is available, a further hearing takes place in which the report is considered and, depending upon the report recommendations, it is often possible to settle the matter. If not, a final hearing has to take place.
To reach the first hearing, it usually takes only a few weeks. However, it can take around three months to obtain a CAFCASS report and the next hearing may be delayed by several months because of this. The court will often make an interim order to cover this delay.