Giving your children the right upbringing and protecting their best interests is not always easy, especially when going through a divorce or separation. Every parent wants the best for their children, but it is also important to protect your rights as a parent.
At Lewis Denley, we are here to make your life easier. Our Family Law team can offer clear, friendly advice on getting the right arrangements for your children, while keeping conflict to a minimum. However, where needed, we will take robust action to protect your children and your parental rights.
Our child law advice service is led by Senior Associate Solicitor Marwa Hadi-Barnes, who has over 14 years’ experience helping people with their child arrangements following divorce and separation.
Marwa has been recognised for her standout expertise in leading client guides the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners. She is a member of family law network Resolution, an organisation that shares her commitment to removing conflict from child arrangements.
Based in central Horsham, our child law advice lawyers help clients across Sussex, Surrey and beyond, including in Rudgwick, Billingshurst, Crawley, Ewhurst, Gatwick, Copthorne, Pulborough, Dorking, Reigate, Godalming, Guildford, Midhurst and Brighton.
Our child arrangements advice pricing is clear and transparent, with options including fixed fees to suit you.
We take pride in being approachable, helpful and here for our community.
We offer a free 30-minute consultation with Marwa Hadi-Barnes to discuss your child arrangements and how we can help.
Our expertise with children law in divorce and separation
Our child law advice solicitors can advise on the issues parents need to consider, including:
- Where children will live (previously known as ‘child residence’ or ‘child custody’)
- How much time children will spend with each parent (previously called ‘child contact’)
- Shared care arrangements
- Parental responsibility
- Schooling concerns
- Relocation of children within the UK and internationally
- Changing children’s names following divorce
How we can help you with arrangements for children
Agreeing child arrangements voluntarily
Nowadays, the usual approach is to make arrangements for children through private negotiation or family mediation. This can avoid the need for contentious court proceedings.
Taking an amicable approach has many benefits, including usually being much faster and less costly. Perhaps most importantly, it is usually much better for children as it avoids unnecessary conflict and helps parents to maintain a more positive relationship.
At Lewis Denley, our child arrangement solicitors can assist with matters including:
- Advice on your parental rights
- Representing you during private negotiations over child arrangements
- Helping you to prepare for family mediation
- Advice on the details of child arrangements agreed through mediation
Applying to a court for a Child Arrangements Order
Where you cannot agree child arrangements, or there are reasons an amicable approach would not be suitable (e.g. a history of domestic abuse) then you may need to apply to a family court for a Child Arrangements Order.
Our child law solicitors can assist with:
- Applying for a Child Arrangements Order
- Preparing your case for your court hearing
- Securing expert family court representation
- Advising you on the details of a Child Arrangements Order issued by a court, including your obligations under the Order and your right of appeal
Child arrangements FAQs
What is a Child Arrangements Order?
A Child Arrangements Order is a court order that will set out where a child should live and how much time they will spend with each parent
Before the Children Act 1989, parents would be awarded “custody” and “access”. This was then changed to “Residence” and “Contact” orders. This changed again following the Children and Families Act 2014 to “Child Arrangements Orders” which specify who the child “lives with” and “spends time with”.
You would need to apply to a family court for a Child Arrangements Order, however, in most cases it is not necessary to do so. These days child arrangements are more commonly agreed voluntarily between parents without the need for contentious court proceedings.
How long does it take to get a Child Arrangements Order?
This depends on the situation, including how soon a hearing can be arranged, whether there are any safeguarding concerns and any other issues that need to be considered.
Often it will take around six to twelve months to secure a Child Arrangements Order, but there are no guarantees and it can take longer. This is one of the reasons why voluntarily agreeing child arrangements is usually the best option as it will almost always be much faster.
How long does a Child Arrangements Order last?
A Child Arrangements Order which specifies who a child spends time with will generally stay in place until the child the Order relates to turns 16 (or 18 in exceptional circumstances) or when a successful application is made to have the Order modified or overturned.
A Child Arrangements Order which sets out the living arrangements for a child, i.e. with whom the child will live, will continue until the child turns 18.
Who will a child live with following divorce?
Who children live with following divorce will depend on the situation, but it is now common for divorced parents to share care of their children. This means the children will live with each parent for some of the time, with a pattern worked out that best fits the children’s needs e.g. attending schools, weekend activities etc.
Can my child live with me full time?
It is less common for one parent to be the sole carer for children these days, but it can happen. Unless your former spouse is happy with this, it is likely you will have to go to court to achieve this.
You will need strong evidence to prove that being the sole carer is in the best interests of your children e.g. that their other parent is abusive or incapable of caring for them appropriately.
Who will a child live with if you weren’t married?
As long as both parents have parental responsibility for a child, then whether you were married or not won’t make any difference. Birth mothers automatically have parental responsibility, while fathers will normally have parental responsibility if they were married to the birth mother or listed on the birth certificate. Same-sex spouses will normally have parental responsibility if they were married to the birth mother at the time of conception.
If you do not have parental responsibility for a child, you can be granted it by agreement of everyone else with parental responsibility for the child or by applying to a court for a Parental Responsibility Order.
How do courts determine who your child will live with?
If you need to go to court to decide who your child will live with and how much time they will spend with each parent, then the court will always make its decision based on what is judged to be in the child’s best interests. The child’s welfare will be the paramount consideration.
Factors a court will look at include:
- The child’s needs (physical, emotional and educational)
- What the child wants (especially where children are older and more able to articulate this)
- How any change in circumstances will likely affect the child
- How issues such as the child’s age, sex and other background matters may impact their needs
- How capable each parent is of meeting the child’s needs
This is known as the “welfare checklist”.
How does domestic violence affect with whom a child will live?
Where there has been a history of domestic abuse, this can substantially affect whether a parent is considered suitable by a court to share care of children.
If you have concerns that your former partner could be a danger to your children, this is something you should raise as early as possible in proceedings. Unless your former partner is willing to let you have sole care of your children, it is likely you would need to go to court to prevent them from having shared care.
Our child law advice fees
The legal costs involved in getting expert child law advice can be a concern. We are committed to transparency with our family law pricing, so will always be upfront about the costs involved, including our fees and any third-party costs.
We offer fixed fee advice where appropriate and will be happy to discuss all the likely costs involved once we have a clearer picture of your requirements, which is something we can cover during your free initial consultation.
Book a free 30-minute consultation with our child law advice specialist
We want to make getting the right child arrangements in place as easy as possible. If you have any questions about how we can help you navigate this essential issue, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Our specialist child arrangements solicitor will be happy to offer a free 30-minute consultation over the phone or via videoconference.
To arrange your free 30-minute consultation, please contact Marwa Hadi-Barnes today.