When parents go through a divorce or separation, putting new child contact arrangements in place is usually one of their main concerns.
At Braddon & Snow, our family law team can represent your interests and ensure that the agreement reached is in your child’s best interests.
Our child arrangements solicitors are friendly and approachable and understand how difficult the situation can be. We will take the time to get to know you so that our advice and representation will be genuinely tailored to the needs of your family.
We will work with you to agree on new arrangements with your child’s other parent, including how much time your child will spend with each parent, who else they will see and how they will stay in contact with you when you are not together.
Our expertise with child contact arrangements
Our team have extensive experience in all aspects of child law, including in the following areas:
- Negotiating child arrangements
- Drafting a child arrangements agreement
- Having your child arrangements agreement sealed by the court into a binding order
- Facilitating mediation where agreement cannot be reached on new arrangements
- Putting together a strong case and providing expert representation in the event that the issue of child arrangements goes to court
- Applying for parental responsibility
- Child maintenance
Our family law solicitors are often able to reach an agreement without the need for a court hearing. As well as being a quicker way to resolve matters, this can also prevent parents’ relationships from deteriorating, which is generally in a child’s best interests.
For more information about our services, see our page relating to Children.
Speak to our family law solicitors in Hoddesdon or Broxbourne
For help and advice in respect of child contact arrangements, please feel free to contact us:
Our child contact arrangements fees
We know that costs can often be a concern during the upheaval of a divorce or separation, and we always ensure our pricing is transparent. We believe that excellent quality legal advice should be available to everyone and always endeavour to keep our costs to a minimum while ensuring we provide outstanding service.
We are able to deal with some issues on a fixed fee basis, meaning you will be advised at the outset of the cost. Where this is not possible, we will provide a clear estimate of our fees before we start work. Should any additional work become necessary, we will always discuss this with you first.
Find out more about our pricing.
Child contact arrangements FAQs
How is child contact decided?
The courts prefer that wherever possible, child arrangements, formerly referred to as residence, custody or access, are decided amicably between the parents. It may be possible to agree on a parenting plan, setting out details of how the child will be cared for and any other issues you decide upon.
Where there are difficulties in coming to an agreement, the next step is usually to attempt mediation. A neutral mediator will try and assist both parents in finding an acceptable solution.
Where mediation fails, the court can be asked to decide the issue.
What does a court look at when deciding child contact?
The court will always make decisions that it believes to be in the child’s best interests and ideally prefers a child to have a meaningful relationship with both parents. In drawing up the terms of an order, it will take the following points into account:
- The wishes of the child in the light of their age and understanding
- The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
- The potential effect on the child of changes in circumstances
- The child’s age, sex, background and any other relevant characteristics
- Any risk of harm to the child that may exist
- How capable each parent is of meeting the child’s needs
Before making an order, the court may ask the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) to prepare a report to assist it in making a decision.
How does mediation work for child arrangements?
The first stage is to attend a preliminary mediation information and assessment meeting or MIAM. This is to assess whether your case is suitable for family mediation. Where there is domestic abuse, mediation is not required. If either party does not want to take part in mediation, then the mediator will sign a certificate to this effect, and the case can be put before the court.
If both parties are open to the idea of mediation, then the mediator will help you both to consider what solution would be best for your child. Your solicitor can advise you as well, and you can discuss your options with them.
One of the advantages of mediation is that you will reach a mutual agreement. By way of contrast, if the matter goes before the court, then a result will be imposed upon you, and it may not be what you wanted.
How do you get Child Arrangements Orders?
If you are able to agree upon arrangements for your child, then this can be put into a document and sealed by the court to make it legally binding.
If mediation breaks down, then you can apply to the court for an order. Your child’s other parent will be notified of the proceedings, and Cafcass will be sent a copy of your application so that they can carry out checks on you both.
At the first hearing, a Cafcass officer will tell the court if it believes that Cafcass needs to prepare a report. The court will make directions as to what should happen next, which could be further hearings or reports.
Once the court has all the necessary information, a final hearing will take place and following this, an order will be made.
Are children’s wishes taken into consideration when deciding child contact arrangements?
The court will take a child’s wishes into account, but the extent to which it acts upon them will depend on the child’s age and understanding.
At what age can a child choose not to see a parent?
At the age of 16, a child can legally choose which parent to live with unless there is a court order stating that they are to live with one parent until they are 17 or 18.
Before this, a child can express a preference, and the court may take their feelings into account from around the age of 12 or 13. The feelings of younger children may be considered, but less weight will be given to them.
What is parental alienation?
When one parent, often the one responsible for the day-to-day care of the child, psychologically manipulates the child so that they turn against the other parent, this is parental alienation. The child will side with one parent’s views and may express a wish not to see the other parent anymore.
The ways in which this can happen include badmouthing or belittling the other parent, not allowing the child to discuss the other parent, questioning the child about their contact with the other parent, preventing contact from taking place, blaming the other parent for the breakup of the relationship or restricting the information about the child that the other parent receives.
This is classed as abuse, and if you believe this is happening, it is important to seek legal advice to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.
Speak to our child contact arrangements solicitors in Hoddesdon & Broxbourne
For a friendly, informal discussion with one of our child contact solicitors about how we can help you with your child contact arrangements needs, please get in touch:
For more information about our services, see our Family Law page.