Parents are encouraged to agree child arrangements post separation so children spend quality time with both parents. Sometimes this is not possible due to differences of opinion in terms of how children's time should be divided between two households.
If you are the primary carer for your children post separation, you might encounter a number of difficulties with your ex-partner or equally, you may feel that your ex-partner is preventing you, or your relatives, from having sufficient child access.
In circumstances such as these, you could consider mediation or making an application to the Family Court for an Article 8 Order under The Children (NI) Order 1995. This mainly deals with things such as the children's primary residence or a shared care arrangement and defined contact orders.
A Residence Order settles the arrangements to be made as to the person with whom the children should live. Residence Orders will generally be made until the children reach the age of 16. Residence Orders can also be made in favour of more than one person, for example, to reflect a shared care arrangement.
A Contact Order requires the parent with whom the children are living to allow them to visit or stay with the other parent. Contact Orders can stipulate not just the frequency and duration of contact, but can also address issues such as supervision of contact, venue of contact, holiday contact and other such specific issues where needed.
There are other orders dealt with under Article 8 of the Children (NI) Order 1995 such as a Prohibited Steps Order, which directs that a parent cannot pursue a particular action or course of action without the consent of the Court; such as taking children out of the jurisdiction. Or Specific Issue Orders, which like Prohibited Steps Orders, are designed to be made either on their own, or together with a Residence or Contact Order. It enables the Court to give directions to determine a specific issue which has arisen, or may arise, in connection with any aspect of parental responsibility for children, for example, the decision to change children's surname, choice of schools, religious upbringing, or medical treatment.
When considering applications of this nature, the Court's main priority is the welfare of the children involved, and Judges will specifically direct their minds to questions such as; how capable are each of the children's parents of meeting their physical, emotional and educational needs? What are the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the children? And, what is the likely effect on the children of a change in their circumstances? In applying the law, the Courts adopt a "No Order" principle in which it will only make orders when it is necessary in the best interests of the children, and therefore if parents can come to their own arrangements then an order will not be necessary.
Deciding to make an application to the Courts is not something to be taken lightly, and you may feel you need advice as to your other options before deciding how best to proceed. Instructing a Family Solicitor to deal with your separation issues does not mean a case is destined for Court. Many of our separation cases are resolved without the case ever going before a Judge or through mediation. Others settle quickly after Court proceedings are issued.
Cleaver Fulton Rankin recognise opportunities to negotiate, and to utilise those opportunities to achieve the best outcome for our clients; it is our job to help you navigate the legal process as best we can. We believe that having access early on in the process to good information and resources is a key factor in how well you and your children will be able to manage this transition.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.