- Child Arrangements following a Relationship Breakdown
In todays podcast Carla Lett speaks with expert family law solicitor Zanariah Webster from Parfitt Cresswell.
Zanariah answers and discusses all your questions about child arrangements following the breakdown of a relationship.
They discuss about if court is absolutely necessary, if mothers have great rights than fathers, how maintenance works, laws around relocations and holidays plus much more.
Email address is [email protected]
The firm offers a complimentary 30 minute consultation so if anyone requires advice on any aspect of family law, please feel free to contact us on 0333 016 4358
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[00:01:35] Hello, and welcome to My Bump 2 Baby expert podcast, where we bring experts from all over the UK to answer your questions on everything, pregnancy to preschool.
[00:02:01] Today, we are talking all about child arrangements and I am joined by family law solicitor Zanariah Webster from Parfitt Cresswell. I hope you enjoy this podcast.
[00:02:21] Hello, everybody. Welcome to My Bump 2 Baby’s Expert podcast. Today I am joined by Zanariah Webster family law solicitor at Parfitt Cresswell. And today we’re going to be covering child arrangements. Hi Zanariah how are you?
[00:02:39] Zanariah: I’m fine. Thank you Carla. How are you?
[00:02:41] Carla: I’m very well, thank you very well. So Zanariah, can you tell us a little bit about you?
[00:02:48] Zanariah: Um, yes, of course, Carla I’m a family solicitor, and I’m working in Parfitt Cresswell in the Windsor office. Um, I’m 13 PQE so I’ve actually been qualified for 13 years, although I’ve been in the profession for almost 20, um, I deal with all aspects of matrimonial law. So divorce, financial settlements, child arrangements, cohabitation, uh, grandparents’ rights, and also nuptial agreements. So we really cover every area under matrimonial law.
[00:03:20] Carla: Amazing. So you cover quite, quite a large, a large audience there.
[00:03:25] Zanariah: Yes, I do.
[00:03:26] Carla: So in regards to child arrangements, then, um, if someone separates from their partner, do they have to go to court?
[00:03:34] Zanariah: Um, not necessarily. And if anything, it’s advisable that parents try to resolve things away from the court arena. Um, court proceedings are very stressful. They can take quite a lot of time and also they’re, they’re potentially quite costly. So what I would always recommend is that where possible try to have an open dialogue with your partner and try to resolve issues, um, away from, um, going to court and away from solicitors.
[00:04:04] What solicitors can help you with is try to put forward an informal arrangement between the both of you, so that you have something documented in writing as to how often the child is going to spend with one parent, who’s going to pay for their activities. Who’s going, you know how often they can have the children during holidays. Solicitors can help with that. But if communication breaks down totally, then there’ll be no choice, but to apply for a child arrangements order, which under the old term used to be called custody, people still use that terminology quite a lot, but it’s essentially what it is. Just custody and yeah child arrangements now.
[00:04:44] Carla: Right. Okay. That’s brilliant. Thank you for that. And, and do mothers have greater rights than fathers over children now when it comes to custody?
[00:04:54] Zanariah: This is actually a myth. And I think it’s perpetuated by a lot of the stories that you see in the press or the media, but the law sees the mother and the father as equal, whether they’re married or unmarried and what’s important and is actually the court’s paramount consideration is the welfare of the child.
[00:05:16] So that means who is able to meet the child’s daily, physical, emotional, psychological, and educational needs, and that the court would want to view that both parents are able to do that. Now, if there are issues with one parent then the court will step in and put in some measures, or they might restrict contact somehow, but every case is dependent on its circumstances.
[00:05:42] Now, if a child is particularly young, so if they’re a newborn or, you know, a toddler. There’s a slight balance towards the mothers only because of the care that the mothers can give that fathers just biologically aren’t able to, but essentially the mothers and the fathers are treated equally in the eyes of the law.
[00:06:04] Carla: Wow. Right. Okay. That’s brilliant. Yeah. I think a lot of these TV programs and stuff like that don’t help with things like that.
[00:06:12] Zanariah: They don’t which is why I never watched them.
[00:06:15] Carla: That makes sense. That makes sense. So touching on that a bit more then, so the courts, when it comes to deciding who the child will live with, obviously if they’re younger, I get what you’re saying about, about the mother. Um, maybe being a bit more available to their needs. Um, but in regards to, um, deciding other than that, when the child’s older, is that a decision the child would make then or you know, uh, how would that work?
[00:06:41] Zanariah: Potentially a child can make the decision. So whenever a parent applies for a child arrangements order, which is a court order, um, there will be a Cafcass officer who was a child welfare officer who will be involved in the case. And their job is to take out, to carry out safeguarding and to find out what the issues are with the family. Now, the older, the child is the presumption is that they’re able to voice who they want to spend time with. And it is quite, the older the child is the stronger their influence is with the judge, but this has to be balanced against what the court welfare officer feel is of the best interest of the child, the circumstances surrounding the parental breakup, and also whether one parent can unduly exert their influence over the other parent. It’s a term called parental alienation and it can put a child at a very difficult position, but generally the older the child is the more better they are at voicing their own opinions.
[00:07:42] Carla: Yeah, that must be so hard for children to do when they are put in the middle of it.
[00:07:46] Zanariah: Definitely they are yeah.
[00:07:48] Carla: So what orders could I ask the court to make then?
[00:07:52] Zanariah: So there is quite a wide range of orders you could ask the court. So you could ask the court for an order for a child to live with you. Um, and to spend time with the other parent. So this is the old terminology of custody. They’ve sort of, the terminology has changed to make the whole process a little less hostile.
[00:08:11] Um, you could ask, you could ask the court if you wanted to move, you know to another part of the country, you could ask for a specific issue order for that to happen. Or you could ask for something to stop the court, ask the court to stop something from happening, which is called a prohibited steps order. So for example, if you had a child and the other parent wanted to take that child to another country that you know nothing about, there are no connections to, you can ask the court to prohibit that from happening.
[00:08:40] And you could also, the other thing I mentioned earlier was a specific issue that is something like asking for specific medical treatment for a child or asking for the court to change the child’s surname.
[00:08:54] Carla: Yeah. Yeah so there’s quite a few different orders there. Isn’t there really?
[00:08:57] Zanariah: Yes there are, there are.
[00:08:59] Carla: What about, um, just touching on moving. What about if a parent decided that they wanted to move to the other end of the country? Does that, is that the same or, or is that worked out differently.
[00:09:12] Zanariah: Um, if there is child arrangements in place between the parents, then it’s not one parent’s right to up and move and take the child with them. It’s quite a serious matter because it not only disrupts the child’s education and their, you know, their social life, so to speak, but also it can disrupt the, the contact that they have with a non resident parent.
[00:09:34] My advice would be is that if you were planning on moving to the other side of the country, you will need to, you should discuss this with the other parent. And if that doesn’t work, the non resident, parent can actually make an application to the court for the court to consider where the child should live. And in that the courts have quite a delicate balancing act to do, because they’ve got to weigh up. The parents need to move abroad, not abroad, but the other side of the country for work, for whatever purposes against the child’s relationship with the parent, that’s remaining, it’s a very difficult balance. And it’s something that the court do not take lightly. And whether the, the person is going to move to the other side of the country or abroad, the same sort of requirements are, are expected from both parties.
[00:10:24] Carla: Yeah, totally understandable isn’t it? If one partner has no contact with the child whatsoever, um, then can a parent still ask for maintenance from that parent? How would they go about that?
[00:10:40] Zanariah: They can absolutely ask for maintenance. Seeing your child is not linked to financial maintenance. So what you would need to, you should do, is actually go to the child maintenance service. So they used to be called the child support agency. And if you know how much your ex partner is earning, you could actually put down what their gross annual salary is.
[00:11:00] Um, and you, the child maintenance service will calculate how much is owed to you. If you don’t know how much they earn. But you have an idea of where they are send the CMS, their details, and the CMS will make contact with them, to make payments and is dependent on their salary. So they would have to disclose their payslips and it’s usually deducted at source. Um, and this is irrespective of whether that parent sees the child or not.
[00:11:26] Carla: That’s great. Yeah, because that extra support, I mean, children cost a lot, don’t they? So, yeah.
[00:11:33] Zanariah: Yes they do.
[00:11:34] Carla: That makes, that makes sense. So, so in regards to the maintenance, again, just a bit deeper on that one. If someone hasn’t been paying say for a year or two years, would the payments then be backdated or not?
[00:11:50] Zanariah: Potentially they can be. It depends on when the case is opened with the CMS. So as far as I know, uh, if you open up a case today or you don’t receive any payment until I don’t know until six months time that it can be backdated to the time that you actually opened the application any earlier than that, you will need to make specific inquiries with the child maintenance service. And they will look at it as a case by case basis.
[00:12:15] Carla: Yeah, it’s just good to know that you’ve got that support there.
[00:12:19] Zanariah: Yeah because children are expensive and a lot of people are under the misdemeanour, that child mated it is to pay for activities and clothes and shoes, but it’s not, it can go towards bills and rent because all those things go towards maintaining a child.
[00:12:37] Carla: Yeah, of course. And, and a lot of parents. The parents who, who have the child, their work hours might work around the school hours. So they can’t work as much, you know, term time. So yeah, no, that, that makes a lot of sense. Um, so can someone change their child’s surname without their partner’s permission?
[00:12:58] Zanariah: Unfortunately, no, they do need their, the partner’s permission, uh, the courts view a child’s surname as part of their identity and to change it without knowing, without the other parent, knowing is sort of excluding that parent from the child’s life. If you can’t, if you don’t know the whereabouts of this parent, or they don’t make any concerted effort to see the child, you could apply to the court for a specific issue order. For the court to decide that the child surname could be changed, but they’re given in very rare circumstances. It has to be very good reasons as to why a child would, why you would want to change a child’s surname.
[00:13:39] Carla: That makes sense. So say for example, me and my partner had split up and he doesn’t really have much to do with, with the child. Can I take my child abroad? If my partner and I are separated?
[00:13:54] Zanariah: Yes, you can. You can take your child, your child aboard. Did you say you are in contact with the, with the partner or not?
[00:14:01] Carla: Yeah. Well, if I was in contact with the partner, um, and I wanted to take my child on holiday, that would be okay?
[00:14:09] Zanariah: Yes, that would be okay. As long as you give the other parent an itinerary as to where you’re going, where you’re staying, when you’re going to be returning. And as long as that country isn’t a high risk jurisdiction, and there are ties to that country and it works both ways. Uh, the other parent cannot refuse, uh, permission unreasonably.
[00:14:29] So for example, if you wanted to take your child to Disney World, but the other parent objected because they wanted to be the parent to take the child to Disney World. That’s not a reason to refuse taking the child abroad. Uh, it’s gotta to be quite a serious reason. So if you’re going to a high risk country, that that’s not a member of the Hague convention, and there are no ties to it then that parent can say, whoa, I don’t want you to take the child abroad. But if it’s just, you know, uh, to a safe country, you’ve give it all the details to the other, the other partner, there is no reason why you can’t take that child abroad.
[00:15:05] Carla: That’s brilliant. And, um, you know, when we talk about, um, taking my child abroad on holiday, if me and my partner have separated, um, is there a timeframe that I’m allowed to take my child on holiday for, is there a maximum amount of time?
[00:15:23] Zanariah: So, yeah. So where there is an order that states that the child is living with one parent. So that’s lives with order. That parent can take the child abroad for 28 days without the written consent of the parents. But practically speaking, I think is always a good idea to, um, let the other parent know that you are taking that, that child abroad because you would expect them to follow the same procedure and follow that same courtesy.
[00:15:52] Uh, it’s very difficult. I can understand to sometimes maintain civil after a separation, but it’s for the benefit of the child. And you would want to know where your child is anyway, so you don’t need written consent, but you should at least have that just to, uh, as a matter of courtesy.
[00:16:09] Carla: Definitely. And it keeps that relationship in, in a good place. Doesn’t it?
[00:16:13] Zanariah: Absolutely. Yeah. So that’s important.
[00:16:15] Carla: That’s great. Brilliant. So how can I improve communication with my ex partner when we do discuss child arrangements? Have you got any kind of tips on that?
[00:16:25] Zanariah: Uh, there are a lot of apps out there that my clients use to, to help with communication. There’s one app called Close App that you can download and it’s used specifically for communication regarding the child. So anything outside of that arena, you just would not put it on. And I think it’s always a good idea when you are communicating with your partner to, conversations should be civil. And, they should be child-focused and child centric. And if things are a bit rocky with your ex partner, they should always be written with a view that it might go in front of a judge.
[00:17:04] Carla: Okay, that’s brilliant. Gosh, we’ve covered quite a lot there. There’s so much to cover. Um, on where, where could people find you Zanariah? If they want to ask you some more questions on this subject?
[00:17:16] Zanariah: Um, so we, our website is www.parfittcresswell.com. The firm offers a 30 minute complimentary initial consultation. Its no obligation and it’s a really good way of finding out what your rights are before you proceed to the next step. Uh, I could give you my email address its [email protected] Um, I’m more than happy to communicate with anyone who has a question about this because it’s such a mind field and there’s so much information out there and talking to friends or Googling it. Is as, as much as, as well meaning as friends, that can be, it can make you even feel even more overwhelmed and confused. So wherever you need that legal advice. I would strongly advised to seek that from an expert.
[00:18:06] Carla: Absolutely also laws change don’t they quite often.
[00:18:09] Zanariah: Absolutely.
[00:18:09] Carla: So what was for one parent, you know, 10 years ago, maybe very well different now
[00:18:14] Zanariah: Yeah and every situation is different. So I get a lot of people who say when it comes to financial, uh, disagreements, for example, they say, well, that person was able to take the house, the pension. You know, they got spousal support, why can’t I? And the main reason for that is because every family life is different. Every situation is different. And that’s what the courts look at. It’s not a one size fits all. Which is a good thing because every family dynamic works differently. Uh, so what may work for one person may not actually work for you?
[00:18:48] Carla: That makes sense. That’s brilliant. Well Zanariah thank you so much for coming on today. That’s been really, really helpful.
[00:18:55] Zanariah: Thank you so much for having me it’s been a pleasure.
[00:19:00] Carla: Thank you for listening to My Bump 2 Baby’s Expert podcast. If you would like to find help and support from experts in your local area, head over to www.mybump2baby.com and you will also be able to find local pregnancy to preschool groups, classes, businesses, and services in your local area.