Disputes over children

When parents separate, and sometimes later, they may have to make difficult decisions about their children’s future.

“Give spot-on, excellent advice in what are stressful situations”

Chambers 2020

Many parents manage to reach mutually acceptable decisions, whether with the help of a mediator or similar professional, but some do not.

There can also be disputes about the level of financial support each parent should provide for the children, or when one parent wishes to go and live overseas with the children. See Financial Provision for Children, International Relocation of Children and International Child Abduction for further information.

Common issues involving the day-to-day care and welfare of the child are:

  • With which parent the child should live;
  • How much time the child should spend with each parent;
  • The religious up-bringing of the child;
  • Any proposed medical treatment; and
  • The child’s education.

We recognise the value of alternative dispute resolution to help parties settle in a voluntary, consensual and confidential manner. Tools include mediation, round the table meetings or, if there is no other possible way forward, through the court. Save in an emergency or in other very particular circumstances, court rules currently require anyone initiating a court application to see a mediator first who must counter-sign the application, confirming attendance at a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting. There are a number of other Government-led initiatives such as Parenting After Parting and the Parenting Information Programme, which the court at initial hearings can recommend and sometimes order parents to attend.

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) is an independent body of social workers and probation officers which advises the court on what it considers to be the best interests of the children. At the first hearing before the court, a duty CAFCASS Officer will normally be present. If the case is not resolved at that stage, the court may order a report from CAFCASS or, at the expense of the parties, from an Independent Social Worker.

The partners in Hughes Fowler Carruthers have unrivalled experience in dealing with disputes over children, whether by way of court applications where necessary, or by way of other forms of dispute resolution.