Child and Children Contact – Family Solicitors Luton

Paul Norton & Co. Solicitors can offer you sympathetic, constructive advice at this difficult time. Our Specialist Child Law Solicitor has extensive experience in dealing with cases of this type, so you can be sure that we can provide you with the knowledge and support that you need to resolve your case.

Paul Norton is a member of Resolution, which means we will try to encourage settlement of cases in a non-confrontational way where at all possible. However that does not mean that we will not fight your case in court if this is needed.

Why choose Paul Norton Solicitor for your child and children legal matters?

· Our experienced and dedicated team will fight your case, helping you to negotiate and mediate where possible;

· Paul Norton is a fully qualified solicitor, who has in excess of 10 years’ experience in children disputes;

· Free initial telephone consultation with our solicitor to assess your case;

· We are very proactive in progressing cases as quickly as possible and undertake most of our correspondence by email, considerably speeding up the process;

· Legal Aid is still available in some Child cases.  We can assess you to check if you would qualify for Legal Aid;

· Competitive rates and fixed fees are available if you cannot qualify for Legal Aid.

Following the Government’s cuts to Legal Aid, we also offer competitive fees in Child Law Applications. We charge an hourly rate of £170 plus VAT for the work of a fully qualified Solicitor with over 10 years’ experience. Free initial consultations over the telephone are offered by our Solicitor, who will be able to assess your case and provide a fee estimate. We also offer fixed fees for attending court with you.

Paul Norton’s Solicitors’ Guide to Child Contact;-

It is a child’s or children’s right to have contact with both parents, unless it is in the child’s best interests not to do so because there are risks of harm. It is important that parents try to arrange contact dependent upon the age of the child, and the practical arrangements and who the child lives with. For example, a baby’s contact session might be just two hours on a weekend, perhaps even in the mother’s home. But suitable contact for an older child or children or teenagers might be alternate weekends, staying overnight, including other contact taking place during the week. At the same time in other cases it may be much less on that depending on the circumstances.  If the other parent lives far away, then telephone contact or Internet video-phone contact, such as MSN or Skype could be agreed.

Also ideally parents need to think about what the arrangements might be for annual holidays, such as the Christmas and Easter breaks, Bank Holidays, birthdays and family holidays and plan in advance.

If for example you are having problems with you child contact, then you should discuss your case initially with us. Usually, we can write to the other parent with your proposals for contact, showing that it reasonable and negotiating on your behalf.

If your proposals are not agreed, then we can advise you on the best way forward.  Court proceedings is not always the best way, and we can discuss other options.  With cuts in the court system, there are often other alternate options to progress your case and each case we can discuss the best way forward in  your case.  For example we can arrange mediation or obtain a court referral to mediation. We can arrange for a specialist mediation service to contact you and the other party to arrange mediation sessions. Many of these options are voluntary and involves meetings with a trained independent third party, who helps the parents negotiate, without the need to go to Court. These options are becoming more popular as the can be an inexpensive way of helping mum and dad come to an agreement. Each case is different and we will try to arrange this because it comes without the stress and complications of court proceedings. There are however circumstances where mediation is not appropriate, such as if there have been incidents of domestic violence between the parties.

If you are on certain Benefits, then you may qualify for free mediation sessions. We can assess you to see if you qualify.

We can also help you to set up mediation through a local Mediation Service, or other service of your choice.

If this does not work out, then we could discuss making an application to the Court to decide the issue.

What is a Child Arrangements Order – Contact?

A Child Arrangements Order – Contact (previously known as a Contact Order) requires the person with whom the child lives to allow the child to visit, stay with or have contact with the person named in the Contact Order, which continues until the child is 16 years old. The Court can also make Orders in respect of children over 16, in exceptional circumstances.

Some Orders are very specific as to what the arrangements are and these are known as “Defined Contact Orders”. They specify dates, times and arrangements and can be preferable when the relationship between the parties is strained. Other Contact Orders are not defined and leave the detailed arrangements to be made between the parties directly.

Some Contact Orders specify that contact has to be supervised by a third party or that contact must be “indirect” i.e. by sending letters or cards to be read to the child.

Who can apply for a Child Arrangements Order – Contact?

Child Arrangement Orders – Contact is not just granted to parents of the child; they can also be obtained for contact between the child and siblings, or with wider family members, such as grandparents.

How does the Court decide who should get residence and/or contact?

When making decisions about a child or children, the Court must consider the law set out in The Children Act 1989, which states that the child’s welfare must be the Court’s “paramount consideration”. In simple terms, the Court must put the child’s welfare above everything else.

The Court must consider all the circumstances of the case, particularly having regard to;-

1. The child’s or children’s wishes and feelings. Obviously this depends upon the child’s age and how much they are able to understand. Generally speaking, the older the child is, the more attention the Court will pay to their wishes and feelings.

2. The child’s or children’s physical, emotional and educational needs. This includes the day to day practical needs, such as housing and food, as well as love and affection.

3. The likely effect upon the child of a change in circumstances. This is of particular concern in residence issues, as the Court will want to disrupt the child as little as possible and to ensure that the child’s life stays the same, as much as possible.

4. The child’s or children’s age, sex, background and other relevant characteristics. This might be any cultural or religious needs, or any special needs or disabilities which might affect the child.

5. The risk of harm to the child. This is the risk of the child suffering and/or having suffered in the past, any physical, emotional or sexual abuse. It also includes the child being witness or at risk of being witness to any domestic violence within the home.

6. The parents’ capabilities in meeting the child’s needs. These capabilities might be impaired if one party has never looked after a child before, or if there is a history of alcohol or drug misuse.

7. The range of powers available to the Court. The Court might decide to make a number of different Orders or perhaps no Order at all, depending upon the circumstances of the case. The Court will only make an order if it is in the best interests of the child or if there is a dispute. The Court can make other Orders, such as a Prohibited Steps Order (which limits certain parental rights and duties, such as preventing a parent from taking the child out of the country) or a Specific Issue Order (which specifies action that a person is to take, such as to send the child to a particular school or for the child to live at a specific address).

What happens at Court the first appointment?

The Court proceedings usually take place in the Family Court, situated in the same building as Luton County Court. Cases also take place in Bedford. The Court may ask both parties to attend a meeting with a CAFCASS (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) Officer, who is an independent third party. The CAFCASS Officer will see if it is possible for you both to negotiate, which may avoid the need for the Court to make an Order.  The meeting with CAFCASS is an important meeting.

What if I’m afraid of my former partner/spouse?

Such a meeting might not be appropriate for you, particularly if you are frightened of your former partner/spouse because you have suffered domestic violence. If this is the case, it is very important that you tell us, your Child Law Solicitor, so that the Court can be made aware of this. In such circumstances, you could be seen by the CAFCASS Officer on your own.

The Court can order CAFCASS to prepare a Welfare Report, to help the Court to consider;-

1. Any domestic violence suffered by you or the other party, or the child/children. This includes any domestic violence that the child may have witnessed, rather than suffered.

2. The harm that the child may be at risk of suffering if an Order for contact is made in favour of either you or your former partner/spouse.

3. Whether it will be safe for you/your former partner or spouse and your child or children to have contact where there have been issues of domestic violence.

4. The wishes and feelings of the child on issues of residence and/or contact.

At this stage, you should make sure that you tell the CAFCASS Officer if there have been any organisations involved as a result of domestic abuse, such as the Police, your GP or a domestic violence organisation, such as Women’s Aid.  Plus other things, which we can advise you of in your particular case.

How does the Court decide what should happen?

When making a decision, the Court will decide what other evidence might be needed in order to make a decision about residence and/or contact. Such decisions are known as “Directions”. For example, both parents might be asked to give statements as to their views, or ask the CAFCASS Officer to make a report and recommendations about what should happen. In making the report, the CAFCASS Officer reads the Court file and the parties’ statements, meets both parents and the child (separately) and any other professionals necessary. Such professionals might be Social Services, or a Child Psychologist.

It is of course important to cooperate with the CAFCASS Officer, because the CAFCASS Officer’s report and recommendations carry a lot of weight with the Judge when they make their decision in your case.  We can advise you on what some of the main things that the CAFCASS Office will be looking at in your case before making their decision.

At the Final Hearing, the Judge will listen to the evidence from each parent (through their solicitor or barrister), the CAFCASS Officer and any other expert that the court has chosen in advance. Having heard all the evidence, the Judge will make a decision on where the child should live and what level of contact should be granted to the other party.

Choosing a child Solicitor:-

Paul Norton Solicitor is an experienced Child Law Solicitors who can assess your case in a free initial consultation.

If you would like to speak to our Family team, please call 01582 494970. Alternatively, fill in the Contact Form , providing your personal details and an outline of your case, and we will contact you.

We offer advice on if you would qualify for legal aid and competitive private fee paying rates for those who do not.

Our Child Solicitors provide sympathetic and caring advice – make an enquiry today to begin resolving your Child Law case.

Please note that the advice given in this Guide is general, basic advice only. The law involving residence is complex and you should seek legal advice regarding such issues.