Leeds Child Arrangements Orders & Private Children Disputes
Why Choose our Leeds Family and Children Solicitors
- Freeths Family team is ranked in the top tier by both the Legal 500 and Chambers for family law advice;
- Our nationally renowned family lawyers can advise on all issues relating to private law children disputes, relationship breakdown and separation. Our team have years of experience in these areas and we have accredited specialists recognised for their particular expertise in children law matters;
- You can trust our team to manage your case sensitively, with empathy and compassion. We will always listen to you and tailor our advice to ensure it is appropriate based on your personal situation and particular circumstances;
- We offer advice and provide a constructive approach. Where suitable, we will always explore whether a negotiated agreement can be reached without the need to go to court;
- We have a wealth of experience within children act proceedings if a court application is needed.
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For further information about our Divorce solicitors, please contact Mark Heppinstall, Solicitor, on the number above or submit a secure enquiry form below.
Our highly regarded family and children lawyers are recognised as leading specialists in their field, with extensive experience acting in complex and intractable Children Act disputes. Mark Heppinstall, who leads our Family Law team in Leeds, has attained specialist Resolution accreditation in private children law work and our team has years of experience in this area.
Relationship breakdown is a difficult time for everyone but can be particularly challenging where children are involved. Inevitably your first concern is likely to be the welfare of your children. Following separation you may well be finding your feet within a new family dynamic and learning to adjust to life as co-parents. Unfortunately from time to time it can be difficult to agree care or other arrangements for children and in cases where disputes arise we can help guide you towards a solution.
A co-operative, constructive approach to resolving arrangements for children can help lay the best foundations for them to feel settled within new or changing family dynamics.
In many cases, parents are able to reach agreement about what is best for their children directly, though this is not always possible or appropriate despite best efforts. Where possible, parents should try to share major decisions about their children; to include things like where they will live, how their time is split between each household, which school they go to, how any health needs should be met and which religion or belief system they are to be raised within.
If you find you are unable to reach agreement around such matters, or if there are broader concerns that arise on separation, we can advise on your options and help you work towards a successful resolution of your dispute.
Although agreements reached together are generally encouraged in the first instance this is not always possible and sometimes court proceedings are appropriate or necessary. There are also occasions where there may be no reasonable alternative. If needed, we can represent and guide you through this process where you can be assured your case will be managed sensitively but firmly.
Many divorcing or separating parents can now attend mediation if they have a family dispute, or if they need help to create a Co-Parenting Plan together.
If arrangements cannot be agreed through mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution our family lawyers will be happy to advise on court applications and guide you through the process.
The Children Act 1989 is the main piece of legislation which governs family disputes for children. This legislation states that the child’s welfare is paramount. When determining any application, the court will also consider the welfare checklist. This includes the child’s wishes and feelings, their physical, emotional and educational needs, the likely effect of any change in their circumstances, their age, sex and background, any harm that they have suffered and how capable each parent is of meeting their needs.
How can I agree arrangements for children on separation?
There are lots of ways you can try to resolve disputes about the care or living arrangements for children in the event of separation. If you feel comfortable, try talking to your partner directly. If you are worried that tempers might flare you may wish to consider having a friend, family member or neutral third party present. Think about where you want to have the conversation. Some people prefer the privacy of their home or a familiar environment known to both parties. Others might prefer a more public place like a coffee shop or similar. If you cannot reach agreement directly, using mediation can be really effective in suitable cases. A specialist children mediator can help guide you towards a solution, and record the terms of any agreement in an outcome statement.
Mediation is not for everyone. Other forms of alternative dispute resolution include collaborative family law, arbitration or negotiations between solicitors. This could be in writing, or through a round table meeting. There is no one size fits all, so what works for one family might not be right for another.
You may wish to record what you decide in a parenting agreement. Although these agreements are not legally binding, they can be really useful to clarify what your intentions are moving forward and how your children’s care arrangements will be managed. Cafcass provide a useful template for parenting agreements that you can access on their website.
What happens if I need to go to Court?
To start legal proceedings you will need to complete an application in a form known as the “C100”. Your application will be filed in the Family Court and this will trigger a standard court timetable. In most cases unless a relevant exemption applies you will need to obtain an exemption certificate from a mediator before you can start the process. This is intended to encourage parents to consider negotiations/mediation before committing to a court application. Sometimes you can dispense with this and not all cases are suitable for mediation. Typical exemptions include if there is an urgent issue, if there is a risk to the children or one of the parties or if there are concerns about domestic abuse for example.
What are the stages in the court process?
Normally, after a court application is made your case will be listed for an initial hearing within five to six weeks. The initial hearing (known as a first hearing dispute resolution appointment) is used to try to identify the issues in dispute, see if the issues can be narrowed and to try promote an agreement if possible. If agreement cannot be reached the court will make directions to progress the application. This might include directions for witness statements to be completed by the parties, for further involvement from Cafcass or for expert evidence if necessary.
Who are Cafcass and what role do they play in the court process?
Cafcass are the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. Cafcass represent children in family court cases in England. They will consider the children’s needs, wishes and feelings and they provide a perspective on this independently of the parties involved in the court proceedings. Cafcass are a statutory body that operate independently of the courts, social services, education and health authorities. They provide an investigatory and advisory function to the court and will speak with both parties in court proceedings, undertake safeguarding and welfare checks and set out recommendations to the court in writing. In some cases, Cafcass officers may be asked by the court to work with families in more detail to explore the wishes and feelings of the children more carefully or consider other specific issues that might be disputed, before advising the court on what they consider to be in the best interests of the children.
How long do court proceedings take to conclude?
This can vary widely depending on the nature of a case and the issues in dispute. An initial hearing will usually be listed within five to six weeks and many applications are resolved at this stage. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes, it may be necessary for further review hearings to be listed. If parties are unable to reach agreement then the application will be listed for a contested final hearing where a decision will be made by the court to determine a child’s care arrangements or address any other issues that the court has been asked and has jurisdiction to decide.
The court is required to try dispose of applications at the earliest opportunity and there is a presumption that any delay is likely to be prejudicial to the welfare of children. However, notwithstanding this, there are some cases where Children Act applications may take 6 to 12 months to determine and very rarely instances where it could take longer than this, although this would be more exceptional.
Call our friendly, professional family team to find out how we can help you.
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