Family Law, Divorce – Child Contact and why London is best
The expression “family law” covers divorce, adoption, property settlements and children. Court hearings determine who lives where, who gets what financially and how the children’s future is planned and arranged. If you have a child and you are not married to the parent you can get a Court Order which can go beyond Child Support Agency (CSA) awards for specific items.
The Court will help you if there has been violence or threats, verbal abuse or with cohabitation rights.
The Children Act 1989 governs aspects in relation to residence with contact to and money for children.
Parental Responsibility is a concept you must master and it gives you the rights and duties of a parent. Often this arises automatically or if not you can obtain it by a simple Court Order.
If you are the father you are deemed to have Parental Responsibility if you are married to the mother when the child was born or if after 1 December 2003 you are registered on the birth certificate. Otherwise you need a Court Order.
This takes under eight weeks. There is a court fee, currently £215. You can have a go yourself or fixed fee lawyers often draft the whole thing for you and get it ready to go to Court for less than £400 including VAT.
In making a Court Order, the age of the children is relevant because for older children the children’s wishes and feelings will be taken into consideration. The older the child, the more that counts and very often parents do not want to go against the wishes of a “sulky teenager” anyway.
If you are involved in a court case involving children, try to avoid discussing it with them. It can and usually does backfire, especially when this emerges and the Judge finds out. It is considered to be “nobbling” and even discussing it with them is considered to be emotionally destabilising.
A Residence Order tells you who the child is to live with and a Contact Order who the child will be seeing outside that main framework. (This is typically the absent father).
There are also Prohibited Steps and Specific Issues Orders dealing with such things as taking the children to live abroad, stopping the other parent, harassing or taking the children away.
If you are on limited means, you will want to do the case yourself hence being a litigant in person. If ever there was a field where a few hundred pounds should be spent if you can afford it on a fixed fee lawyer, this is it. Rather like your liberty in a criminal case, you will not get two shots at a children case and you will kick yourself for having been penny pinching if it goes wrong.
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