3 October 2022

Frequently Asked Questions – Family Law

Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors


Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors
This section of the website endeavours to provide answers to frequently asked questions. Below are the FAQs about family law.
UK Family and Matrimonial
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This section of the website endeavours to provide answers to frequently asked questions.

Below are the FAQs about family law.

The answers are necessarily general. They are information - and in some cases detailed information but they are not advice. Advice is something which is specific to you and your situation. We can only give advice as to the best options for your if we know a lot about your individual circumstances.

These FAQs can be a starting point in your journey to sort out difficulties. But the next step should be to arrange a meeting with one of our team of experts.

We are ready to help.


Who is the best family law solicitor near me?

We have written about this at length in the context of divorce in a page on this site entitled The Best Divorce Lawyer for you .

Solicitors who solely undertake divorce work will unlikely be the best suited to a complex case concerning children.

Our team includes both divorce experts and experts in child law – both disputes between parents and in cases brought by social services.

When choosing the best family law solicitor for you it is important that you find someone who you can work with and someone who has the right experience for your case.

Costs are rarely not a factor. If you instruct someone who charges £350 plus VAT an hour – are you going to be able to afford their services for the entire case?

Is the person you are instructing actually going to do all the work? Or are they going to delegate to a junior colleague?

It is important to get a good cost estimate and clarity over how your case is going to be run.

As we have discussed in our article and in our charging pages: Payments , Our Fair Charging Policy the most expensive hourly is not the best measure to determining who is the best family law solicitor for you.

How to find a great family solicitor?

See the answer to the above question – who is the best family law solicitor near me?

I have built a strong team of experienced family law solicitors and divorce lawyers who I have known for many years. In my view they are all great. So please do give us a call....

Can I have a free consultation with a family law solicitor?

Some solicitors will offer a free consultation but be careful. When a solicitor gives advice they can in theory be subject to a claim for professional negligence – if the advice is incorrect. The solicitor will need to open a file and keep a record of both the discussion and the advice given. These actions will take up time and there will be a cost and risk for the solicitor. For the solicitor to be able to give good advice they will need as much information as possible and it would be unlikely for the solicitor to have all the information that they would need to give best advice and answer follow-up questions in a short and limited free consultation.

What normally happens is that the solicitor will not give advice – but instead will listen to the client explain the problem and then give some general information about the services that they can offer – without giving advice. If advice is required the solicitors charging clock will then go on and the client will be charged for the time spent giving advice.

We have a very full website and we provide lots of information on our website (but no advice) for FREE. We also have video clips of most of our solicitors on their profile pages so that you have a better feeling of what they are like before you meet them.

Because we provide so much free on our website we prefer to go straight to a proper meeting when we first meet with a client. This means that the meeting will be for one hour and we will give advice during the meeting. We will also send to you a copy of our attendance note.

This doesn't mean that we can give all the answers when we first meet – but we can and will be as helpful as we possibly can. For this we charge a discounted fee of £100 plus VAT.

You could view this as the first half-hour being free and the 2nd half-hour being paid for if that is an easier way to think about things. But we feel that charging a discounted/modest fee is the fair way of doing things.

We are very open about how we charge. All of our charging rates have always been published on our website. It is our understanding that our rates are lower than the firm's to whom we would wish to be compared. We have a very experienced team of family lawyers and we should have a team member who has the specialism to help you.

Details of how we charge are at

Who are the cheapest family solicitors near me?

See the answer to the above question – who is the best family law solicitor near me? See also Our Fair Charging Policy, Charges.

Ultimately you will only know what your costs are at the end of the case. Therefore, what is going to be the biggest factor in determining your costs is whether your chosen solicitor is able to resolve the case in a satisfactory way in a relatively short timescale. Often, an early solution requires finding a compromise acceptable to both sides. Alternatively, decisive action.

Hourly rates are an indicator – but if you instruct someone who charges a low hourly rate – but who is unable to settle your case – you may well end up with more costs than if you had instructed someone with a more expensive hourly rate – but who was able to achieve a sensible solution relatively quickly.

We would like to think that we have struck a good balance between competitive and affordable charging rates and expertise. We would not claim to be the cheapest and we are certainly not the most expensive – but hopefully are combination of substantial experience and competitive charging rates is the right combination.

Do I need a family law solicitor?

If you are asking this question – then you probably do need to speak to a family law solicitor.

A good initial meeting with a family solicitor will assist you to understand the issues and options and the costs of these options.

Whether you then go on to instruct the family law solicitor to do all the work for you is a different question. But by obtaining good and clear advice at an early stage you are able to make informed decisions.

We do not offer a free half an hour meeting – because we do not think that half an hour is long enough to go through the problem thoroughly (obtaining all the information that we need) and then to give advice. A free half an hour meeting is likely to be quite superficial. We offer a full one hour meeting – but charged for this at a discounted rate of £100 plus VAT.

Do I need a prenuptial agreement?

Everyone's situation is slightly different, and there is also a question of personal preference.

We suggest that you make an appointment to come and see us to discuss your particular circumstances and the pros and cons of having a prenuptial agreement.

For older couples, perhaps entering into a second marriage, with older children, a prenuptial agreement may be a very sensible idea. A prenuptial agreement deals with what would happen on divorce. Reviewing the arrangements in a will at the time of preparing a prenuptial agreement (and subsequently keeping that under review as well) is also sensible.

Will a prenuptial agreement be binding?

Entering into a prenuptial agreement should be viewed as a process rather than simply signing a contract.

A prenuptial agreement has strong evidential value at the time of the divorce.

If the prenuptial agreement was prepared in the right way, with it being clear that there was financial disclosure and if it was clear that both parties had freely made the informed decision to enter into a sensible agreement – then it is likely to be upheld.

However, as a matter of law, the court at the time of the divorce will wish to ensure that there is fairness and in particular that the needs of the parties and of minor children are met. A prenuptial agreement can be reviewed regularly after the marriage and can be replaced by a post nuptial agreement. Essentially the same type of agreement – but entered into after the marriage has taken place.

If an agreement is entered into by young couple, without children, and perhaps at the time with no plans to have children – if this is not reviewed if they subsequently have a family, the weight of the prenuptial agreement will be significantly diminished.

Does there have to be a court order about my children?

The primary law about the arrangements for children is the Children Act 1989. Within this is the no order principle.

The no order principle is that the court should not make an order unless it is in a child's best interest to do so.

The underlying principle and expectation is that parents will work together in a sensible way to promote the best interests of their children and to agree the arrangements for their children.

If the arrangements do not work then the court will decide the arrangements if asked to do so.

There will be cases however where obtaining a court order is very much in a child's best interests.

Where parents cannot agree, a court order will define how children will spend their time between their parents.

All situations are different and if it is not obvious that things are working well and no order is needed – then we suggest that you obtain some specific legal advice.

Family mediation and collaborative family law can be ways in which agreements can be reached over child arrangements – and a court process avoided.

Can I have shared care? I want a 50/50 arrangement for my children?

All cases are different, and we suggest that you seek specific legal advice. Shared care or 50/50 care may be right in one family, but not in another.

Things to take into consideration are: a child's wishes (in light of their age and understanding), where the child goes to school, whether the parents are working – and their working hours (what will happen at the start and end of the school day? Are there other siblings/half siblings who will be affected by the arrangements? What time off work do the parents have in school holidays? How close do the parents live to each other?

Sometimes parents focus overly on quantity over quality. If you are looking at 50/50 – is weekend time more valuable? Is time when your children are asleep less valuable?

Where there is more than one child – often they will value having one-to-one time with each parent. How do you factor this in?

There are lots of things to think about and we suggest that you take some advice.

The best arrangements for children are ones where their parents are able to put past differences behind them and get on well (enough) and where they can rely upon each other to deliver their share of the arrangements. The best arrangements also need flexibility from time to time.

Court proceedings rarely improve communication between parents. A better place to start is trying family mediation.

How do I get shared care of our children?

If the arrangements are not agreed between you and your former partner – then we suggest that you seek advice.

A good starting point is then to discuss arrangements in family mediation with the assistance of a neutral family mediator. Mediation is negotiation and finding a solution in mediation requires compromise on both sides.

Sometimes parents become overly focused on quantity over quality. Mediation is a good process to look at arrangements in a practical way.

Mediation is a process – so changes can be tried out, and change achieved in stages.

Ultimately if the arrangements cannot be agreed then an application can be made to the court and the court will make a decision.

The court's decision will be based upon the courts view of what is in the child's best interests. This does not necessarily mean shared care. All cases are different and we suggest that you seek specific advice.

Court applications rarely improve relations between parents and an application to the court should not be made lightly or without being clear about the pros and cons of making an application.

Do I have to agree to shared care of our children?

No one has to agree anything. Particularly, if they think that there are risks involved for the child or to the parent.

If you do not feel comfortable agreeing an arrangement – then we suggest that you take legal advice.

We are conscious that sometimes parents who are leaving abusive relationships can feel bullied by the father/abusive parent into agreeing things that they are not comfortable with.

What can I do if my ex is being difficult about me seeing my children?

We suggest that you take some advice. Sometimes it is necessary to seek a court order so that there are very clear and legally enforceable arrangements.

Other times solutions can be found through negotiation in family mediation.

If an arrangement is not working and you do nothing, there is the risk that it will get worse.

It is best to take advice at an early stage so that you can make informed choices about what is best to do for you and your children.

Can my ex stop me seeing my children?

If there is no court order, then the parent with care could on a practical basis withhold contact.

If you do nothing about this – then it may become harder to re-establish seeing your children in the future.

We recommend that you take some legal advice. It may be that a an application to the court will be needed. Alternatively decisive action, and the threat of legal proceedings may encourage change, or bring the other party into sensible discussions in family mediation.

All cases are different. You need advice so that you can make informed decisions about what is the right thing to do for you and your children.

What is Separated Parenting Information Meeting?

Often where there are court proceedings between parents, the court will required the parents to attend the separated parents information program.

The idea of the separated parenting information meeting is to educate parents about the damage that they will do to their children if they cannot find a way of working together to promote their children's best interests.

Children do not thrive as they should when they are exposed to ongoing conflict!

Children do not benefit from listening to one or both of their parents saying horrible things about the other parent.

Sometimes parents become stuck in arguments with each other and lose sight of the effect of ongoing arguments upon the children.

From what we understand, it is a good course and even if the problem is l with the other parent, it is a good idea to go along.

Do grandparents have rights to contact?

As a general principle, children benefit from having a good relationship with parents with whom they do not live and with both sides of their wider family.

When parents separate, parents normally make arrangements with each other about how children spend time between them. The expectation is generally that each parent will promote the relationships with their family in their time.

Sometimes a parent is not allowed to see their children or loses contact with their children through choice or inaction.

That a parent is not seeing their children does not mean there is not a benefit to children enjoying a relationship with their grandparents.

All cases are different and we suggest that you take some specific legal advice.

The best arrangements for children are ones that can be agreed and where they are supported by good communications and trust between the adults. Mediation is normally a good process for making and improving child arrangements.

All situations are different and we suggest that you take legal advice so that you can make informed choices.

Can I stop my ex taking my children to live abroad?

See also the question – how do I take my children to live abroad?

If the other parent has said that they would like to/are planning to take your children to live abroad we suggest that you seek legal advice as soon as possible.

These can be very difficult situations.

Sometimes a court will refuse permission to a parent to relocate overseas with their children.

On the other hand, if a move is resisted unsuccessfully then the court can still make orders about what the arrangements for contact will be. It is usually necessary to obtain mirror orders. This means obtaining child arrangements orders about contact arrangements both in the UK and in the country to wear the move is being made.

We suggest that you coming to see us as soon as possible.

I am worried that my ex may be drinking or using drugs

We recommend that you seek legal advice as soon as possible.

What action you could/should take depends upon whether there is an existing court order setting out the child arrangements (contact or residence).

In some cases it may be appropriate to seek advice from social services as well – on the basis that there is a safeguarding concern.

In other cases, an urgent application to the court may be needed.

In other cases it may be possible for you to simply withhold contact.

If a court case takes place, then the court can order independent testing for the use of drugs or excessive alcohol consumption.

If you take the wrong step, you could have a serious falling out with the other parent and you could also get into trouble with the court. This is why you need to seek urgent advice from one of our expert team.

I don't want my children to stay overnight with my ex?

The question that we would have in reply would be why don't you want your children to stay overnight with your ex?

There may be some very good reasons.

Children should not be exposed to genuine risk of harm.

On the other hand children can benefit from overnight stays with the parent with whom they do not live.

All cases the different and we suggest that you take legal advice so that you can make informed choices about what is best to do for your children.

How do I take my children to live abroad?

If you are planning to relocate from the UK with your children you will need the agreement in writing of all those with parental responsibility for your children.

Taking children to live abroad can be very challenging for the other parent and difficult court cases can result. Sometimes the court will not give permission for a parent to take their children to live abroad.

If this is something that you want to do? Then we recommend that you get early legal advice.

It may be possible to obtain the consent of the other parent to the move. It is best that this is done after an exchange of solicitors letters – so that it can be seen that there is informed consent from the other parent. This would still not stop the other parent from changing their mind.

It may therefore be sensible to obtain a court order by consent.

Mediation may also be a useful forum for parents to discuss and hopefully agree what the arrangements will be after a move has taken place.

We suggest that you seek legal advice as soon as possible.

Do I need a solicitor for family court?

It is not compulsory to have a solicitor for the family court.

The courts try to be as accommodating as they can to parties who do not have legal representation. However the court rules need to be complied with. Often there is considerable and useful negotiation outside of the court hearing.

We would not recommend going to court without legal representation.

Do you have to pay for a family solicitor?

If you are a parent or person with parental responsibility or you have had children living with you through a child arrangements order and you are being taken to court by social services – then you should qualify for free legal aid. With these types of social services cases there is no means test.

If you are seeking legal aid for other areas of Family Law then there is means tested legal aid available.

If you don't qualify for legal aid – then if we did not charge our clients for the work that we undertake then we would go out of business. We try to charge as fairly as possible.

Once we have met you and understand what your case is about will hopefully be able to give you a good idea of what the costs are likely to be.

Family solicitors that do legal aid

The best way to find a solicitor who undertakes legal aid is by using the Law Society's Find a Solicitor website.

You should undertake a firm search and click through to advanced search options where you can select to search for the option: Accepts Legal Aid.

You are on our website. We undertake legal aid work (subject to financial eligibility). We have legal aid contracts for family law (which in practice normally means cases involving social services and domestic abuse) and family mediation.

The rules about legal aid are complicated. If you contact us to arrange an appointment we will send you a list of items that you need to produce.

How much are solicitors fees for family law?

The solicitor's fees will depend upon what you asked them to do.
If you are simply seeking advice in support of a mediation process, then the fees are likely to be fairly modest.

If you are engaging a solicitor to represent you in a court process, then the solicitor's charges will be dependent upon how complicated the case is and the number of court hearings.

More complicated cases will involve the gathering and assessment of evidence and preparing the case for a contested hearing. Court hearings will also try to find out whether it is possible for the case to be resolved without the need for a judge to make a decision.

To be able to give a good cost estimate we will need to meet you and find out about your case.

Solicitors almost invariably charge in family cases by reference to an hourly charging rate. What this rate will depend upon a number of factors including the experience of the fee earner and where they are located.

We are very open about how we charge and we have always published our hourly charging rates on our website at
From the market research that we have done, we believe that our hourly charging rates are lower than the firm's to whom we would wish to be compared. Most solicitors practices do not publish their hourly charging rates on their websites.

We are aware of some solicitors who charge less than us – or at least their hourly charging rates are lower. Our experienced team has access in our view the best family Law practice support service and library and our firm has the Law Society Lexcel Practice Management Accreditation. We also have a substantial and experienced team of family law specialists.

It is likely to be the case that a firm with cheaper hourly rates is much less likely to have any/most/all of the components which make up our service.

Fees will also depend upon the approach that a solicitor takes. Discouraging negotiation and driving the case towards a contested hearing is likely to incur higher costs than engaging in sensible negotiation and seeking to resolve matters in a sensible way at a reasonably early stage. Negotiation requires skill and focus.

The use of negotiation and dispute resolution is embedded in the DNA of our practice.

When you come in to see us we will give you the best cost estimate that we can.

How much do family solicitors cost?

See our answer to how much our solicitors fees for family law (above).

How much does a family solicitor cost?

See our answer to how much our solicitors fees for family law (above).

How much is a family law solicitor

See our answer to how much our solicitors fees for family law (above).

How much is a solicitor for family court

See our answer to how much our solicitors fees for family law (above).

If the case is about child arrangements – then the first hearing will be what is called a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment. If there are no child welfare issues raised and the court is of the view that the children in question are not old enough for it to be helpful to find out what their wishes and feelings are – then the case would then be listed for a final hearing. Prior to the final hearing the parties will file statements of evidence which will explain their cases.

The court would hope that the pressure of being at court and the knowledge that quite a lot of cost is likely to be incurred if the case goes to a final hearing – then the parties will reach a sensible negotiated solution.

A representative from Cafcass will normally be present at a First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment. The Cafcass officer can assist negotiations as well.

If an agreement can be reached, then provided that the Judge is satisfied that it is better for the children for there to be a court order (then there being no court order) then a final order could be made at this first hearing.

Having representation and a solicitor to assist in negotiating and then to draft the final order can be invaluable in terms of avoiding costs and future dispute.

Legal representation can ensure that a court order is clearly worded. There are things which we might want to be included in a draft order which someone without legal qualification might not think about. This is because we have the experience of seeing when agreements and orders go wrong.

If the case does not settle at the first hearing – then having legal representation at the first hearing dispute resolution appointment is also important because it is at this hearing that the court often makes directions which set out very tightly how the final hearing will take place. These directions are likely to limit the evidence that can be relied upon. It is therefore important to have made a preliminary assessment of evidence before the first hearing takes place.

How to find a good family law solicitor?

You have found our website – so we would hope that you have already answered this question for yourself by clicking onto our pages.

On the profile pages of each of the members of our team there is some information about them and there is also (in most cases) a video clip.

We would urge you to make an appointment to come and see us so that we can talk about the specifics of your case and how we can assist you in achieving the best outcome that may be possible.

Solicitors that do legal aid for family law

By clicking onto our pages you have found a solicitors practice with a legal aid contract for family law.

If you and your children are the subject of a case being brought by social services – you are most likely entitled to free legal aid.

In other cases legal aid is means tested and the legal aid agency must also be satisfied that you have a good enough case to justify legal aid being made available to you. In non-social services cases evidence of past domestic abuse will also be required.

Our legal aid pages also have links to relevant pages on the legal aid agency website which include the means test and domestic abuse evidence requirements. See here Legal Aid . Legal aid is complicated. So please give us a call.

Unfortunately legal aid is much less available than it was 6 years and more ago. There are many cases now where a client might have got legal aid in the past but they are no longer eligible. We will do our best – but we can't achieve the impossible!

What does a family solicitor do?

A family law solicitor is a solicitor who specialises in the practice of family Law. Family law is quite a broad area of law and includes: divorce, divorce Finance, separation and cohabitee property disputes, protection from domestic abuse, child arrangements, child custody, relocation of children both within the UK and overseas, child abduction, surrogacy, cases brought by social services.

It is unusual for a family solicitor to be expert in all aspects of family Law. Within family law solicitors will usually have particular expertise.

The job of a family solicitor is to advise and represent their client. Sometimes this will include going to court and appearing as an advocate on behalf of their client. Sometimes the advocacy will be undertaken by a specialist barrister.

What the solicitor will deal with is the day-to-day running of the case/negotiations and preparation of evidence and generally getting the case ready for a final hearing so that a judge will be able to make a decision.

Many cases do settle – so the solicitor will also be using their skills to engage in sensible and realistic negotiation.

The solicitor will also undertake drafting of documents including orders and agreements (for example consent orders, prenuptial agreements, postnuptial agreements, cohabitation agreements et cetera).

Who are the best family law solicitors

Who the best family law solicitors are is something which will depend upon your case. There are lots of very good family solicitors who are experts in one area of family Law – but would be less good in dealing with a different aspect.

Having a large and experienced team means that we have strength and depth and we should have someone with the right skills for you.

The best is personal and we have a fuller article about this at:

How do I apply for a child arrangements order?

See answer below to the question: how to apply for a child arrangements order.

How do I get a child arrangements order?

See answer below to the question: how to apply for a child arrangements order.

How much is a child arrangements order?

How much a case will cost can be very difficult to predict. Much will depend upon whether the other party disagrees. The cost then depends upon how great the disagreement is and how many court hearings there are.

Costs are very case specific. The best thing to do is to arrange an initial meeting to have a proper discussion.

How to apply for a child arrangements order?

Applying for a child arrangements order is relatively simple. The application requires the completion of the court form C 100 and this being sent to the court with copies (to be served upon the other party and Cafcass and a copy for yourself) and payment of the court fee.

In some circumstances, an applicant with very limited means may be able to obtain a fee exemption. There is a form that needs to be filled out to apply for this.

Unless there is a genuine emergency or an exemption from mediation (as set out in the C100 form) applies, then before the C 100 can be lodged with the court, the applicant will need to meet with a family mediator for a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting – so that mediation can be considered. The mediator will need to sign the C 100 form as well if mediation is not going to take place or has broken down. Without this the application should be rejected by the court (unless there is a genuine emergency).

How to change a child arrangements order?

A child arrangements order will have been made by a Court. As a matter of law, the court will need to have been satisfied that it was in the best interests of the children for there to be an order. Arrangements can be changed, and the court does not expect parents to necessarily have to go back to court every time they want to change the arrangements set out in a child arrangements order. The general expectation is that parents will work together and improve arrangements over time for the benefit of their children. The general expectation is that arrangements will evolve as children grow and their needs change. A Child arrangements order – whilst it gives certainty – should not necessarily have to cause inflexibility.

If there have been changes to the arrangements over time – but for whatever reason – the parents end up going back to court, then the court will be interested in the contents of the original order, but it will be more interested in the current arrangements (or the arrangements immediately before they broke down) and how those arrangements have changed over time.

If there have been agreements between the parents, the court will wish to understand what these were and when and how they were agreed. Generally speaking, the court will respect sensible agreements. Ultimately the court will make decisions based upon the best interests of the children.

Therefore, if either parent wishes to change and arrangements – the starting point should be negotiation. Negotiation can be either face-to-face, or in mediation or through solicitors.

Given that arrangements generally work best when parents are talking to each other, and can rely on each other to do what they say they are going to do, then mediation is a good means of discussing and making changes to child arrangements.

Even if mediation hasn't been successful prior to the making of the original child arrangements order – this doesn't mean that it shouldn't be attempted again. Indeed, if there is to be a new application to the court, the expectation is that there will be a new Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting – MIAM, so that mediation can be considered.

With the support of mediation, proposed changes can be trialled before being agreed. The views of children can also be sought within the mediation process.

Successful mediation should assist in improving communication and trust between parents.

Whatever the case, any changes that have been agreed should be agreed in writing.

Sometimes, there may be benefits to asking the court to approve a new court order. Other times that might not be necessary.

If there is to be a change in where the child resides, there may be good reasons for there to be a new court order – in order to be able to show the change in residence to government bodies et cetera.

All situations are different and we would strongly recommend seeking legal advice as to how best to secure any agreed changes.

If a change to the arrangements is not by agreement – then there is a court order – and that is the default position. The court expects its borders to be obeyed. Therefore you can't simply change arrangements unilaterally.

How to change child custody arrangements?

Please see the answer to the question above – how to change child arrangements order.

In short, unless the change to custody (or residence) can be agreed – then you will need to make an application to the court. If there has been agreement – then obtaining a new court order may still be advisable.

Unless there is an emergency – then the normal procedure needs to be followed – which is seeking a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting.

If there is a real emergency – simply not returning the children is not normally a good idea.

If you are concerned that there should be a change in the child custody/residence arrangements – then you should seek legal advice straight away.

How to make child arrangements legally binding?

The court will generally respect the agreements reached between parents – but not if it does not consider them to be in the child's best interests.

The arrangements for most children do not need to be legally binding in the sense that the default position is that there does not need to be a court order. Court order should only be made if it is better for the child that there be a court order than not.

Generally speaking the best way to secure arrangements (without a court order) is for parents to put their past differences behind them and to relearn how to get on with each other and to work together for the benefit of their children. The process of mediation can be very helpful in assisting parents to achieve this.

Ultimately arrangements can be made legally binding by there being a court order.

How to make child custody arrangements?

Please see the above question and answer – how to make child arrangements legally binding.

How to make payment arrangements for child support?

Payments for child support are generally made of one parent directly to another. However they can also be paid through the Child maintenance service (for a fee).

If relations between the two parents are poor, it may be that the receiving parent will wish to set up a separate bank account to receive the payments. In all cases parents should keep records to prove the payments have been made/received – or not received.

How to vary a child arrangements order?

Please see the answer to the above question – how to change a child arrangements order.

What are the best child custody arrangements?

The best child custody arrangements are those which are best focused upon the needs of the children. All cases are different. The best arrangement for a young child, may not be the best arrangement for an older child. The best arrangement in a family where there has been domestic abuse – may not be the best arrangement for children of parents who have separated amicably. Child protection concerns would also have a significant impact upon what is the best arrangement.

What are the best arrangements for one child in a family, my not be the best arrangements for another child of the family. All families are different and children have different needs.

Generally speaking, children want to enjoy their time with both parents. They want/need reliability and regularity. Children having one to one time with both parents and is normally very beneficial.

Parents can sometimes become stuck in disputes such that they lose sight of the needs of their children. 50/50 time can be bandied around as an idea – but what does this mean in reality – particularly when one or both parents are working?

Generally, the best arrangements are those which are reached by agreement between the parents.

Mediation can be a good way of agreeing the arrangements. Mediation is a process and different options can be explored within the process. Children's views can also be sought.

The best arrangements for children do not involve the parents spending months and years in conflict with each other.

All cases are different – so seeking specific advice is normally a good idea.

Although really achievable, the best arrangements are where parents live very near to each other (even next door) and get on with each other, and communicate well. Their children move freely between both households (with both parents knowing where they are) and with children spending individual time with both parents. To achieve this type arrangements means leaving on significantly from the grown-up issues which led to the breakup of the parents relationship.

What does a child arrangements order mean?

Please see answer to the question below – what is a child arrangements order.

What is a child arrangements order?

A child arrangements order is a court order which sets out the arrangements about where a child lives and how much time they spend with their other parent or other family members such as grandparents. It is the new name for what used to be called Residence and Contact Orders and before that Custody and Access Orders. As the name of an order – it's been in place for a number of years now – but then custody and access orders were replaced by Residents and contact orders with the Children Act 1989 – and custody and access are still words that are used to describe arrangements.

The basic idea behind the terminology child arrangements – is that it is designed to avoid situations where a parent might say – I want a custody order, I want a residence order or a shared residence order. It is designed to neutralise arguments over terminology – so that parents focus on the actual practical arrangements (if possible).

What is a child arrangements programme?

The Child arrangements program is a pathway through which cases proceed through the courts.

Steering application for a child arrangements order is more than simply attending court hearings. Care needs to be taken in application is framed, went is made, negotiating at court to reach sensible arrangements/agreements and if necessary preparing evidence for a final hearing and then framing the arguments in a way to maximise prospects of success.

What is typical child custody arrangements?

Please see question above – what are the best child arrangements.

This really does depend on the parents and the children.

It is not untypical for children to grow up with parents who have separated and who struggle to talk to each other and can end up in dispute and disagreement from time to time or frequently. Children can find their arrangements disrupted. They can find themselves listening to parents say not nice things about the other parents. Sometimes children lose contact with one of their parents.

Sadly disrupted arrangements are more typical than they should be and these are to be avoided.

Who decides child custody arrangements?

Ideally it is the child's parents who have parental responsibility who decide the child custody/child arrangements for their children. Ideally they will do this by talking to each other.

Ultimately if the parents cannot agree the arrangements for their children then one can make an application to the Family Court and a designated Family Judge or Family Magistrates or a designated family District Judge will make a decision.

Parents can also choose to have the decision made by a suitably qualified arbitrator. In England and Wales, the arbitrator will be a member of IFLA. The arbitrator's decision will be legally binding. There are some advantages to arbitration over a court process – which is set out in our pages on arbitration.

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.

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