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Child Law Solicitors

When going through separation, parents need to come to a suitable agreement about their children. We understand that ensuring your child’s happiness and welfare is put first during this difficult time can put a lot of strain on you, particularly if your ex-partner is uncooperative. Our specialist family law solicitors hope to share the burden as much as possible and help you find a positive, long-term solution that works for the whole family.

At Whiskers Solicitors, we have a team of friendly, practical family lawyers with experience providing advice in children-related matters to individuals across Harlow and Epping in Essex and Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire.

We believe that the vast majority of family law matters involving children can be resolved peaceably between the parents without involving a judge. Parental conflict after a relationship breakdown can have a negative effect on a child’s happiness, so we will aim to work constructively with your ex-partner whilst also promoting your parental rights and seeking an agreement which is beneficial to you.

However, we will not encourage cooperative discussion if it is not in your best interests. We understand that not all relationships end on equal terms and you may feel distressed or vulnerable when trying deal with your ex-partner. If you are unable to reach an agreement, we can help you pursue other methods, such as seeking a Child Arrangements Order from court.

For further information or to set up an initial appointment with one of our children law solicitors, please get in touch with:

How our child law solicitors can help you

We can advise and assist on a wide range of children related issues, including:

  • Residence
  • Contact
  • Parental Responsibility
  • Specific Issues and questions about a child’s upbringing
  • Financial provision for children
  • Co-parenting agreements
  • Special Guardianship Orders

We are members of the Law Society’s Family Law and Children Law Accreditation Schemes for our high-quality service and practical experience. We are also members of Resolution, an organisation which promotes conflict-free methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), such as family mediation. For most Family Court applications, you need to show you have first attended a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to see whether mediation is suitable for you. We can provide further advice in relation to this.

We offer both legal aid and private funding options to allow you flexibility in how you access our legal services. We have particular experience supporting vulnerable individuals and individuals experiencing domestic abuse, including making urgent court applications where necessary.

We also support families in public child law proceedings, including social services involvement and care proceedings. For more information about this, please visit our Child Care Proceedings Solicitors page.

Residence and contact

Typical child contact arrangements involve the children living with one parent most of the time whilst spending an agreed amount of time with the other parent.

We can help you discuss and agree a voluntary arrangement which can then be made legally binding by way of a Consent Order or we can handle an application for a Child Arrangements Order on your behalf.

Parental responsibility

Parental responsibility describes the legal duties parents have to look after and raise their children, including to provide them a home, discipline them, and make decisions about their medical treatment.

Parents do not lose parental responsibility just because they break up and both parents retain the right be included in important decisions. However, in some cases of same-sex or unmarried couples, one parent may not have parental responsibility, potentially causing problems upon separation.

We can provide advice on your parental rights and responsibilities, including advice on obtaining parental responsibility for your children.

Specific issues

Deciding where children will live is just the first step towards successful co-parenting after separation. However, questions about children’s upbringing, such as:

  • What school the children should attend
  • Whether they should change their surname
  • Whether they should have a religious upbringing

often raise issues for separated parents. If you and your ex-partner cannot come to a decision, we can help you obtain:

  • A Specific Issue Order – a court order which answers a specific question about a child’s upbringing
  • A Prohibited Steps Order – a court order which forbids a specific action being taken by someone with parental responsibility. For example, these orders are often used to prevent one parent taking their child to live overseas

 Financial provision for children

Parents with parental responsibility have a legal duty to provide for their children. Therefore, if you are the primary caregiver for your child, you can ask your ex-partner to pay child maintenance to contribute towards their everyday living costs. There are several ways we can help you sort out child maintenance:

  • A voluntary agreement – when sorting out your finances upon separation, you should try to agree a Child Maintenance Agreement with your partner. You can make any voluntary agreement legally binding by later applying to court for a Consent Order.
  • The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) – if you cannot reach a voluntary agreement, you can apply for payments to be calculated for you by the CMS. This service can also be used to track, transfer and chase payments, making it a good option for people whose ex-partners are unreliable with their payments.
  • A Child Maintenance Order – you can only apply for a court order in certain circumstances. For example, if you cannot use the CMS because your ex-partner lives overseas.

Co-Parenting Agreements

Also known as a Parenting Plan, a Co-Parenting Agreement is a written document which sets out your agreement on matters such as:

  • Residence and contact
  • Decisions about your child’s upbringing, including education and religion
  • Child maintenance payments
  • The child’s medical treatment

Although Co-Parenting Agreements are not automatically legally binding, you can apply to court to formalise the Agreement in the form of a Consent Order if you want. This means, if your ex-partner does not stick to your Agreement, you can take them to court to enforce your rights.

Special Guardianship Orders

A Special Guardianship Order appoints someone to be a “special guardian” to a child. Typically, it is used when the child cannot live with their birth parents. There are specified circumstances in which you can apply for a Special Guardianship Order, including:

  • You have a Child Arrangements Order or Residence Order
  • The parents and anyone else with parental responsibility consents
  • You are a relative of the child and they have lived with you for at least one year
  • The child has lived with you for three or more years out of the last five years
  • The child is in care and social services consent

We can provide advice on your eligibility as well as handling the application on your behalf and providing guidance on your role and responsibilities as a special guardian.

Why choose our children law solicitors?

We are a firm of skilled, caring lawyers based in Harlow and Epping, Essex and Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire. Here are some of the reasons our clients choose us to help with their children law matters:

  • Child-centred approach – we will keep the happiness and best interests of your children central to our advice at all times, regardless of the challenges that arise. Our years of practical experience mean we are skilled at anticipating and resolving conflict before it has a chance to negatively affect your children.
  • Warm, personal service – we aim to provide a welcoming environment for you to openly discuss your issues and concerns so we can offer advice which is specifically tailored to meet your individual needs. You will have a personal family lawyer who will be responsible for the quality of your experience with us.
  • Accredited expertise – we are members of the Law Society Family Law and Children Law Accreditation schemes for the high quality of our advice and customer service. Amongst our talented team, Reza Sabzevari and Shalini Subherwal are accredited family law specialists. Reza is also an accredited children’s representative with experience representing and supporting children during family law proceedings. Reza and Shalini are both members of Resolution, an organisation of legal professionals devoted to the constructive resolution of family law matters.
  • Open, inclusive environment – we welcome every individual, regardless of personal circumstance, and aim to make our legal services as accessible as possible. So, if you have any disabilities or individual accessibility needs, please do not hesitate to get in touch for a confidential conversation with a member of our team.

Get in touch with our child law solicitors in Harlow, Epping and Bishop’s Stortford

For further information or to set up an initial appointment with one of our children law solicitors, please get in touch with: