Child Contact and ResidenceWhen two people get divorced, there are a whole host of changes that need to be made. However, the top priority for most couples going through a divorce is how this will affect their children. In a perfect world, both parties would agree to the contact agreements and residency of the children. However, this is not always the case. If both parents cannot come to an agreement regarding child contact and child residence, it must go through the courts.
What is child contact?Contact with a child can be anything from writing letters and making phone calls, to face-to-face meetings and overnight stays. The court can help parents come to an agreement regarding the type of contact orders that will please both parents.
What is a Prohibited Steps Order / Specific issue order?A Prohibited Steps Order (PSO) or Specific Issue Order (SIO) is granted by the courts to prevent either parent from making specific trips or carrying out certain changes with the children without the written permission of the other parent. PSO’s / SIO’s are not always necessary. However, there have been instances where one parent has taken the children abroad and not returned, making it very difficult for the other parent to see their children again. This is an example of just one type of situation that PSO’s / SIO’s help to prevent, so they are especially useful if the divorce is not amicable.
How long does a PSO or SIO last?Once the court has granted the order, this will remain in place until all parties have come to an agreement regarding the children. This includes the agreement of visitation rights, and a mediation meeting must take place to prove to the courts that the children are no longer caught in the crossfire of the divorce.
Examples of how a PSO or SIO can helpThere are a wide variety of issues that can occur regarding children during a divorce, including:
- Decisions made regarding the education of the children.
- Decisions made regarding the use of religion in bringing up the children.
- Decisions made regarding the children being taken to live abroad.
- Decisions made regarding the medical treatment of the children.
- Decisions made regarding other parties being involved in the lives of the children.
What is a contact order?If there is a disagreement between the parents over who their children should have contact with, it may be necessary for a child contact order to be granted by the courts. The contact order will remain in place until a full court hearing sees the matter resolved.
Who can apply for a contact order?A contact order can be applied for by a variety of people who are involved in the child’s life. These include, but are not limited to:
- A parent, step-parent or guardian, who has parental responsibility in the eyes of the law.
- A person with a residence order in force in respect to the child.
- A person who has the consent of each person with parental responsibility.
- A person who has lived under the same roof as the child for three years or more.
What is likely to affect a contact order application?When it comes to child contact orders, the most important issue to take into consideration is the welfare and wellbeing of the child or children in question. This is why there a variety of factors that are likely to affect a contact order application. These include:
- The wishes of the child, i.e who they do and do not want contact with.
- How a change of circumstances is likely to affect the child.
- Any harm, be it physical or emotional, that the child has suffered in the past.
- The child’s age and gender.
- The capability of the child’s parents, or the person wanting contact, of meeting the child’s needs.
How to apply for a contact orderTo apply for a contact order, you may apply directly to the court. However, we strongly advise that you consult an experienced solicitor, like the members of our dedicated team, to give you the benefit of their expertise.
What is a child arrangement order?A child arrangement order, previously called a residence order, is issued by the family proceedings court, and says where the child or children in question should live. The person who is granted the child arrangement order will also receive parental responsibility for the child for as long as the order continues. The length of a child arrangement order depends on the specific circumstances of the case. However, it is unlikely that the order will continue once the child has turned 16, except for in exceptional circumstances.
Who can apply for a child arrangement order?Unlike a child contact order, a child arrangement order can only be applied for by a person with parental responsibility for the child. However, it is possible for Grandparents to apply, but they will need to get permission from the courts first.
What is likely to affect a child arrangement order application?The welfare and wellbeing of the child is the most important thing to the courts, so anything that could possibly affect the child in anyway will be considered when it comes to a child arrangement order application. Factors that are likely to affect your application include:
- The child’s wishes, i.e. where they would prefer to live and why.
- How a change in circumstances could affect the child.
- Who else lives at the property in which you would like the child to live.
- Any harm the child has endured in his or her past.
- The child’s physical and emotional needs.
How to apply for a child arrangement orderTo apply for a child arrangement order, you can apply directly to the court. However, we strongly advise that you contact a solicitor for legal advice. Our friendly and dedicated team are experts in these types of cases, and have years of experience in advising about child arrangement order applications.
How can DPP Law help?Here at DPP Law, we have years of experience in dealing with child contact cases. If you seek legal advice and counsel from us, you’ll benefit from our expertise and wealth of legal knowledge. Get in touch today to discuss your next steps.