Divorce and children – your rights surrounding contact with kids, new partners, and more revealed by leading law firm
From meeting new partners to deciding who sees who, divorce isn’t an easy process especially when children are involved.
Thankfully Stella Robbins, a senior solicitor of Family Law at Atkins Dellow LLP clears up some of the more confusing aspects, such as your rights as a step-parent and what to do when your ex fails to pay maintenance.
What is parental responsibility?
Parental responsibility is the set of rights, duties and obligations a person has regarding the care of a child. This includes providing education, recreation, and religion and also grants them the ability to consent to medical treatment for the child.
Who has parental responsibility?
Married parents have joint parental responsibility whereas, in unmarried parents, only the mother does. An unmarried father can get joint parental responsibility by being named on the birth certificate, marrying the mother, or entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement.
Do step-parents get parental responsibility?
Yes, but not automatically. If you and the children’s other parent agree, then you can enter into a Parental Responsibility Agreement which all three of you sign – if your ex disagrees then this will require a court application.
What orders can the Court make regarding the Children?
Court Orders will only be made when necessary and in the child’s best interests. Some examples include:
- Child Arrangements Order – this settleswhere and whothe child resides with for the majority of the time, as well as where and how visitations will be arranged i.e. supervised, at weekends etc.
- Prohibited Steps Order – used toprevent another parent’s actionsif they have not been agreed on, is usually used to prevent a child from being relocated, moved to another country or name changes.
- Specific Issue Order –usually when there are disagreementsregarding a child, such as name changes, where they should go to school, or their religious upbringing.
Can my ex stop my kids from meeting my new partner?
Unless seeing the new partner is going to put the children in danger then no, your ex doesn’t have the right to stop contact.
Should I stop contact if my ex isn’t paying maintenance?
No, get in touch with the Child Maintenance Service – an organisation designed to help and support you in getting maintenance for the children. While it might seem unfair, don’t let your relationship with your ex influence what is best for your children. If they enjoy having contact with your ex, let it continue while seeking advice from CMS.
How do I have contact with my kids if my ex won’t let me see them?
If you’re looking to establish regular contact with your child follow these steps:
- STEP ONE–TALK IT OUT – Speak to your ex to find out what their issues and concerns are. If this can’t be resolved you’ll need to attend mediation.
- STEP TWO–ATTEND MEDIATION – The mediator will help both parents to communicate more effectively and iron out those issues and concerns. If this still doesn’t work the issue will have to be taken to court.
- STEP THREE–APPLY TO THE COURT – Both parents will be invited to attend a hearing and listen to the concerns and issues raised. If the court is satisfied that there is no risk to the child having contact with the other parent then the court will make a Contact Order.
I’m worried that my children’s wishes and feelings aren’t being considered
You can ask the court to bring in The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service to assist. CAFCASS can speak to the children about what’s going on and establish their needs in a Wishes and Feelings report. CAFCASS will communicate these findings to the court and act as an independent advisor for the judge.
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