GET IN TOUCH : 01484 821 500

Separation can be a difficult and emotional time especially when it involves children. This week Resolution are celebrating Good Divorce Week and have created a guide to Parenting Through Separation, in order to help parents navigate this difficult time.

A good starting point for fathers is to understand whether they have Parental Responsibility for the child. Parental Responsibility has an important role when it comes to parenting after separation, especially for fathers. Parental Responsibility is defined by s3(1) of the Children Act 1989 as ‘all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child’. This can include decisions about education, medical decisions, religion or changing the child’s name. A mother automatically has Parental Responsibility for a child however, a father does not. A father will only have Parental Responsibility for a child if they were either married to the mother at the time the child was born or if the fathers name appears on the child’s birth certificate. If you do not have Parental Responsibility, you cannot make an application to the court for contact with the child, without permission from the courts.

If you do not have Parental Responsibility, there are various ways you can obtain it. You can enter into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother, or you can apply to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order.

If an application has to be made to court with respect of a child such as which parent a child should live, how much time a child should spend with each parent or any other issue involving a child and their family life then there are several factors the court will consider before making a court order, this is known as the Welfare Checklist. The Welfare Checklist under S1(4) of the Children Act 1989 includes:

  • The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (depending on the age of the child)
  • Their physical, emotional and educational needs
  • The likely effect of any change in their circumstances
  • The child’s age, sex, background and any characteristics of theirs which the court considers relevant
  • Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
  • How capable each of the parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting their needs.
  • The range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question.

When learning to co-parent, it is essential to maintain a child centred approach. It is important to ensure that you are allowing your child to have a voice and that they feel heard. During proceedings involving children the court take a child centred approach when making any order. Depending on the age of the child the court may want to understand the child’s wishes and feeling before making an order. Cafcass, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, is an organisation of social workers who work closely with the child or children and the family to understand what would be in the best interests of the child. Cafcass will often work with the children through play to identify what the child’s wishes and feelings are in relation to the questions the court are being asked to determine such as who a child should live with. They will also carry out safeguarding checks on each parent. CAFCASS will then use the information they have collected to file a report with the court setting out their recommendations for the arrangements for the child / children. These reports carry a lot of weight with the courts and often influence a court’s decision when making an order in respect of a child or children.

For further information about parenting through separation, read Resolutions Parenting Through Separation Guide or visit their website or request a free copy from Ramsdens

If you are going through a separation or require advice from a solicitor please contact the Family team at Ramsdens on 01484 821500 or send us an email to arrange a free, 30 minute telephone consultation.