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Child Law Solicitors

When parents break up, ensuring that the children aren’t caught in the middle can be challenging. We can provide empathetic legal advice, helping you find a way forward and achieving the best possible outcome for you and your children.

At Parsonage & Co Solicitors our friendly and approachable child law solicitors provide practical advice and emotional support to individuals and families across Teddington, Richmond upon Thames and the wider surrounding area.

Separation can be very confusing and upsetting for young people, so legal cases involving children must be handled with the utmost sensitivity and care. We understand that regardless of parental relationships, children’s needs come first. Our aim is to deal with such matters swiftly and efficiently to minimise unnecessary delay. We have many years of experience dealing with sensitive children matters, including:

  • Arrangements for children after divorce, civil partnership dissolution and separation, such as:
    • Deciding where children will live
    • Deciding who they should have contact with
    • Making decisions about their upbringing, such as where they should go to school
  • Child relocation – whether a parent can take their child abroad to live or for an extended period of time
  • Change of name – deciding whether you or your former partner can change your child’s surname
  • Advice about parental responsibility – the rights and responsibilities of raising your child
  • Special guardianship – looking after a child when their parents can’t
  • Child support and financial provision
  • Child related court orders:
    • Child Arrangements Orders
    • Specific Issue Orders
    • Prohibited Steps Orders
  • Advice if you and/or your child are at risk of domestic violence

It is common to feel worried about the idea of going to court and having a judge make decisions about your family. However, with the help of our children law experts your case is unlikely to reach the court stage.

We are members of Resolution, an organisation of family lawyers who are dedicated to helping families find positive solutions with minimal conflict. As members of Resolution, we follow a code of practice that puts the interests and happiness of children first.

However, where out-of-court agreement is not possible, we can advise you on the court process, guiding you through it step-by-step so there are no unwelcome surprises.

Contact our child law solicitors in Teddington, Richmond for help solving the issues facing your family.

How our child law solicitors can help your family

Arrangements for children after divorce, dissolution and separation

We can help you minimise the impact of your separation on your children, safeguarding their happiness and helping them feel secure. We can help you put in place a parenting plan with your former partner that clearly sets out your agreement about how you will co-parent going forwards. We are skilled at helping parents negotiate terms, work through disagreements and avoid unnecessary conflict.

However, where out-of-court agreement isn’t possible, we can also provide advice about a wide range of child-related court orders, including:

  • Child Arrangements Orders – deciding who the children should live with and how much contact they should have with the other parent and other relatives (such as grandparents)
  • Prohibited Steps Orders – stopping your former partner from doing something, such as taking your children abroad or getting them certain medical treatment without your consent. We can help you make urgent applications for this type of order if necessary
  • Specific Issue Orders – answering a specific question about a child’s upbringing, such as where they should go to school or whether they should have a religious upbringing

These sorts of arrangements for children used to be called ‘child custody’, however, that term is rarely used by children law solicitors and family court judges nowadays.

Child maintenance and financial provision

Parents have a legal obligation to financially provide for their children, even if you and your former partner were not married or in a civil partnership.

We can provide advice about sorting out child support – in many cases, we are able to help parents negotiate this as part of their parenting plan. If agreement is not possible, the Child Maintenance Service can calculate payments on your behalf and even take steps to collect or enforce payments if your former partner falls behind.

The court rarely steps in with help with child support disputes. However, we can also provide advice in the rare situations where court intervention is the best option – for example, where your former partner has a significantly high income or your child has additional needs, such as a disability.

Child relocation

There are many reasons why you or your former partner may want to take your children overseas. Whether you have got a new job in another country or you want to be closer to family, you need the consent of your children’s other parent (and vice versa). Taking a child out of the jurisdiction without both parents’ consent is considered child abduction and can have both civil and criminal penalties.

This can understandably cause a lot of conflict between parents, but with the right support, it can be possible to reach a solution. We can talk you through your options, including:

  • Negotiating a compromise with the assistance of our child law solicitors
  • Using mediation or another form of alternative dispute resolution
  • Going to court

We can also help with urgent court action where your former partner intends to leave the country with your child without your consent. Get in touch as soon as possible for advice.

Change of name

Both parents (and everyone else with parental responsibility) needs to agree before a child’s surname can be changed. Alternatively, a Specific Issue Order can also be requested from court to change a child’s name if it is in their best interests.

We can provide practical advice about changing a child’s name, including seeking consent from your former partner or helping you apply for a court order if necessary. We will help you weigh up the benefits of pursuing legal action, both in terms of financial cost and the potential impact on your co-parenting relationship.

Parental responsibility

Nearly 50% of babies are now born outside of marriage and the law tends to take the same approach to child matters whether the parents are married or not – the child’s welfare is the number one priority.

However, there is one big difference – if you and your partner are cohabitees, you should make sure that you both have parental responsibility for your children (the rights and obligations to raise your child and make decisions for them).

Birth mothers always have parental responsibility, but unmarried fathers and same sex second parents do not automatically have it. If you break up with your child’s mother and do not have parental responsibility, you will not have the automatic right to have a say in major decisions.

We can provide advice about whether you have parental responsibility and help you take steps to acquire it if you do not. For example, by making a parental responsibility agreement with the mother or seeking a Parental Responsibility Order from court.

Special guardianship

Sometimes, a child’s parents are just not able to provide the care they need. In these cases, it is often a relative, such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle who steps in to take care of the child. However, these relatives do not automatically get parental responsibility to make day-to-day decisions about the child’s care and upbringing.

If you are looking after a child, we can help you seek a Special Guardianship Order to make your role official and to give you all the tools you need to provide the child with the best possible care.

We will provide advice about what being a Special Guardian means, whether it is right for you (or whether another option, such as a Child Arrangements Order, fostering or adoption might suit you better), and help you take all the legal steps to become a legally recognised Guardian.

Our approach to resolving child related issues

A child-centred approach

We know that the happiness of your children will be your top priority, so we’ll make it our top priority too. We take a child-centred approach to all family law issues involving children. This means that we:

  • Try to minimise the impact of family law proceedings on your children as much as possible, such as:
    • Avoiding court wherever we can
    • Defusing tension between you and your former partner by providing a welcoming, neutral environment to discuss problems
    • Explaining your options in plain language so you can confidently make decisions about how to move forward
    • Trying to find the best solution as quickly as possible to avoid dragging out the process
    • Negotiating on your behalf and putting your agreements into writing so there’s no confusion about how you have agreed to co-parent
  • Take your children’s views into account and give them a voice wherever possible (bearing in mind their ages and ability to understand what is going on)
  • Try to make your experience with us a comfortable and painless as possible, for your own benefit as well as to shield your children from stress

Our child law solicitors are often able to help families reach resolutions without involving any other professionals. However, where appropriate, we can also provide advice about using mediation to sort out family law matters.

Family Court proceedings

Unfortunately, out-of-court agreement isn’t always possible. We may be warm and friendly out of the courtroom, but our family lawyers are also fierce litigators with decades of combined experience representing clients in court. We will aim to achieve a positive outcome for you and your children as swiftly and cost-effectively as possible.

Get in touch with our child law solicitors in Teddington, Richmond

Contact our child law solicitors in Teddington, Richmond for help solving the issues facing your family.

Useful resources for children matters