FDR Law Legal Clinic Legal advice from Karah Lane, Family solicitor based at FDR Law’s office in Warrington on Child Arrangements without Legal Aid
Q: My son and his separated wife are finding it difficult to agree on the arrangements for their children, what options are there?
A: When parents separate one of the most important issues to be agreed is the arrangements for the children. This is often extremely difficult as both parents are used to living with the children and it is therefore important to consider carefully what is in the children’s best interest. This includes where they will live, how often and how much time they will spend with the other parent, schooling etc. Given the breakdown in the relationship it may not always be possible to sit down and agree on arrangements and they should consider seeking expert Family legal advice.
Since 2013 Legal Aid is rarely available and as a result people are finding they have limited options, including representing themselves which can be daunting.
There is now a new requirement by the court that before any application can be made, parties have to try to reach an agreement through mediation. This is a process where two parties attend with an independent person to discuss the issues in dispute, with the aim to reach an agreement. Mediation however is not always appropriate i.e. where there has been domestic abuse. A solicitor will be able to consider whether or not mediation is appropriate.
If an agreement is still not reached, then an application to the court for a Child Arrangements Order may be necessary. This order has replaced the previous orders known as a ‘Residence Order’ or ‘Contact Order and sets out clearly where the child shall live and who the child spends time with or has contact with.