Children and the Court
For a parent going through a separation or divorce, the primary concern will be the welfare of the children. Many parents can, and do, make arrangements for their children on their own. Indeed the Court encourages them to do this if possible rather than imposing Orders. This principle means that, in most cases, a Court will not make any Order in relation to children anticipating that as the parents you will be able to reach agreement as to what is best for your children. The Court will only make an Order if it considers it would be better for the child than not making an Order at all.
In those circumstances where parents cannot agree the arrangements to be made for their children the Court can become involved. This can involve making decisions concerning Parental Responsibility, Residency Orders, Contact Orders, Prohibited Steps Orders and/or a Specific Issues Order.
Upon the breakdown of a relationship financial responsibility for any children continues. Putting an effective child maintenance agreement in place is therefore an important issue. There are three main options you can choose from for arranging child maintenance: a voluntary child maintenance agreement reached with the other parent, agreement via the Child Support Agency (CSA/CMEC) and agreement under the terms of a Court Order if agreed.
At present, the law in the UK does not acknowledge any legal relationship between grandparents and grandchildren which means that, in the event of a divorce, grandparents may lose contact with their grandchildren. It may be possible to maintain contact with grandchildren but if this is unsuccessful mediation is a good option. As a last resort an application can be made to the Court for contact. Grandparents, however, need to apply for permission to apply for a Contact Order.
It is said that step parenting is one of the hardest forms of parenting. However no matter how closely a step parent is involved in the lives of their step children, they will not automatically gain Parental Responsibility. For a step parent, Parental Responsibility can be obtained by being named in a Residence Order, by entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement, by applying to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order or by applying to the Court to formally adopt your step child.
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