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Children & separation matters

Children & separation matters

Family Law & Divorce Solicitors
Family Law & Divorce FAQs 

Legal advice on children and separation matters

Unfortunately following a relationship breakdown, disputes can sometimes arise regarding the children. If matters cannot be resolved through mediation or negotiation, then it may be that one of the parents needs to apply to the court for a Child Arrangements Order or other Orders to resolve the dispute.

Quick Enquiry

Child arrangements

What are child arrangements?

Child arrangements, in general terms, are the arrangements for how a child spends time with or contacts their respective parents. An arrangement could stipulate where a child lives and the days/times that the child spends with the other parent. In some cases, the child will not spend time directly with one parent and the arrangement may state that the child sees their parent whilst under supervision from a third party or communication is only in writing or by telephone.

How do I agree child arrangements with my ex?

The first step is to see if you can come to an agreement between yourselves. If you are unable to do so, you may wish to seek the help of a mediator or a solicitor. Any agreement needs to be reached with the child's best interests being of paramount importance. Depending on the age of the child or emotional maturity of the child, you may wish to discuss this with the child. Ultimately, however, it is for the parents to agree what the arrangements should be. 

What if we cannot agree child arrangements?

If you have been unable to reach an agreement between yourselves or with the support of a mediator or solicitor, you may need to instruct your solicitor to apply to the court for a Child Arrangements Order. In many cases, a Court will require the parents to have at least attempted to engage in negotiations via a mediator before proceedings can be issued. Court proceedings can be costly and it can, in some cases, take over a year for matters to be resolved.

How do you record child arrangements?

Where possible child arrangements should be written down. This reduces the risk of any confusion between the parents. It may be that the arrangements are included in a Parenting Plan or in a Court Order depending on the circumstances.

Other specific orders concerning children 

What are the other issues that may arise in children matters?

We are also able to offer advice in the following areas:
•  which parent the children should live with
•  changing a child’s name
•  which school a child should attend
•  what medical treatment a child should have
•  whether a child should be removed temporarily eg a holiday or permanently from the jurisdiction

How can a family solicitor help?

A family solicitor can help advise you on your rights as a parent and the options available if parents are unable to reach an agreement on matters concerning their child. A solicitor can help prepare the necessary paperwork and lead any negotiations.

Child maintenance

What is child maintenance?

Child maintenance is a financial contribution from the non-resident parent to the resident parent (i.e. the parent with who the child lives more of the time) to help towards a child’s everyday living costs. In the applicable circumstances, child maintenance is a statutory obligation, enforceable through the Child Maintenance Service (previously referred to as CSA). In some cases, parents may agree how much is paid between themselves. Otherwise, the Child Maintenance Service can order how much the non-resident parent is required to pay.

How is child maintenance calculated?

The Child Maintenance Service has a formula for maintenance in the UK based on the paying parent’s income. The formula will consider matters such as:
•  the non-resident parents income
•  the number of nights that the non-resident parent cares for the child overnight
•  how many other children (if any) the paying parent is also supporting

What happens if the non-resident parent refuses to pay child maintenance?

We recommend that you seek legal advice as soon as possible. The resident parent may wish to make a formal claim through the Child Maintenance Service.

Is there a cap on the amount of child maintenance that is paid?

Yes, as the maximum income that can be taken into account of the paying parent is £156,000 per year before tax. If the paying parent's income exceeds the cap then it may be possible to apply through the courts for additional top up maintenance.

What happens if the non-resident parent or child lives abroad?

The payment of Child Maintenance through the Child Maintenance Service is limited to cases where the children and the paying parent live in the UK (although the Child Maintenance Service may be able to help if the paying parent works abroad for certain British organisations). If the Child Maintenance Service cannot make a calculation for maintenance, then the court may make an Order for child maintenance, depending on where the children are located.

Child Abduction

Unfortunately, there are situations that occur where one parent takes it upon themselves to take a child (or otherwise not return a child) without the other parent's consent. This can amount to child abduction. This of course is incredibly concerning for the other parent, particularly if the child has been taken abroad.

What should I do if I suspect my child has been abducted?

Your child's safety is of paramount concern. If there are any concerns for your child's safety, the police should be called immediately. If you know where your child may be, the police may agree to attend the location to check on your child's welfare. If you do not know where your child is, you should take urgent steps to ascertain where your child might be. If necessary, you may need to consider putting in place border alerts.

If the other parent refuses to return your child, an emergency application should be made to the court to seek your child's immediate return.

There are additional laws that deal with international abductions. Countries which are signatories to the Hague Child Abduction Convention follow an international regime which governs the return of children to their home country.

Child Relocation

If you plan to move a short distance from your current property and your child will not need to move school. This is unlikely to cause any grave concerns for the other parent.

However, in situations where there will be a significant move, particularly abroad, written consent should be sought from the other parent. If the other parent does not consent, an application should be made to the court to seek the court's permission for the relocation. Failure to do so, could result in the parent being accused of child abduction.

Any applications for relocation should be given considerable thought. Whilst one parent may consider that the move is in the best interests of the child, consideration needs to be given to the impact that this could have on their relationship with the other parent.


Grandparents are often invaluable in supporting their families, in particular with providing much needed child care. As such, at the point of a relationship breakdown between the parents, grandparents can often find themselves distanced from the family and prevented from seeing or spending time with their grandchildren. This is disappointing for both the child, and the grandparent, with whom they may have a very special bond.

If a grandparent is prevented from spending time with their grandchildren, they should in the first instance try to communicate with their child (the parent), in the hope that an agreement can be reached. In the event an agreement cannot be reached, the next step is to consider mediation, in the hope that mediation can resolve the issue. If mediation does not help, then the mediator can sign a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (often called a MIAM) certificate, which will show the court that the parties' have tried mediation and in turn will enable the grandparent to issue an application with the court, to apply to spend time with their grandchild.

However, all grandparents should be aware that only those with parental responsibility are able to make decisions about a child. It is also important to be aware that if a grandparent wishes to make an application to the court to spend time with their grandchildren, they first need to apply to obtain the permission of the court to make the application in the first instance. Generally such an application is not unreasonably refused. Once the court has granted permission, the grandparents' application can proceed allowing the court to determine how much time the grandparents can spend with their grandchildren.

"Katie Hanson was superb, making a difficult process far less painful than it would otherwise have been, giving clear advice at every step - and being HUMAN!"

  • Anonymous

For specialist advice from an experienced team of family lawyers, please contact our New Enquiries team on 020 7405 1234 or complete the form below.

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Meet the Team

Our experienced family law and divorce solicitors can advise you on all aspects of your relationship, a relationship breakdown or even a new relationship.

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Samantha Hickman - Family Law & Divorce Solicitor in Bristol - VWV Solicitors Law Firm
Lucy Barr - Family Law & Divorce Solicitor in Birmingham - VWV Solicitors
Bindu Malkan

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