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What is Family Arbitration?

Arbitration is effectively a private court hearing where you select your own Judge, known as an Arbitrator.

You can choose which arbitrator you wish to use based on their areas of expertise. If you are unable to agree on the arbitrator, there is a process which enables an arbitrator to be appointed for you

During arbitration you each present your case to the Arbitrator. As with a Court hearing, you can speak on your own behalf, but it is normal for a Solicitor or Barrister to present the arguments for you.

Unlike a Court hearing, arbitration is tailored entirely to your needs, so you can set the timetable and choose the venue (physical or virtual). In some cases, Arbitration can be completed entirely on paper.

Is Arbitration Legally Binding?

Before the process can begin, you must both sign an agreement to uphold the arbitrator’s decision (sometimes called an ‘award’) and turn it into a court order. This makes it legally binding and enforceable in law.

Is Arbitration Right for Me?

If you are unable to reach a fair divorce settlement through other means, it is worth considering Family Arbitration as an alternative to Court because:

  • You can choose an arbitrator with expertise relevant to your circumstances, rather than having a Judge appointed who may not have the same level of knowledge in the specific aspects of family law.
  • Your chosen arbitrator will hear your case from start to finish, ensuring consistency, which is often not possible in the court system.
  • The process is flexible and you can effectively decide on the speed at which it progresses, rather than your timetable being set by the Court.
  • You can choose where the arbitration will be heard, the arbitrator’s office or a solicitor’s office, which offers a more relaxed experience than Court.
  • You will receive the written award or determination from the arbitrator within 28 days, but often sooner. It is not uncommon to wait several weeks or sometimes months for a court to hand down judgment.
  • The decision is private and confidential, it will never be published.

What are the Disadvantages of Arbitration?

As with all processes, what is considered an advantage by one person may be a disadvantage to another.  A key point to note is that there are limited grounds to appeal the Arbitrator’s decision if you are unhappy with it.

You should also be aware that the Arbitrator will charge a fee and it is normal to split that between you.  Although this may seem like a large expense, Arbitration is usually less costly than court litigation, which can be littered with delays that increase costs.

Legal Advice

We have highlighted Arbitration as an effective alternative for those who would otherwise go to Court, but there are other Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) options available.  If you wish to explore whether arbitration, or another method of ADR, may be helpful in your case please get in touch with us at Allard Bailey Family Law.

To book a consultation or telephone appointment with one of our team, please call 020 7993 2936 or complete the Contact Form and we will get in touch with you.

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The latest publication includes the following commentary about Allard Bailey Family Law:

‘The ‘attentive and responsive team’ at Allard Bailey Family Law ‘undertakes a high volume of HNW work – which is testament to its expertise’.  The team of ‘very experienced female solicitors who combine expertise with kindness’ is co-led by Sabrina Bailey and Louise Allard.  It is regularly instructed on high-value financial cases with an international element and with complex tax, trusts and business assets as well as on difficult children cases.  It has been expanding at partner level with the promotions of Louise Poulton and Jennifer Granby to the partnership and the addition of Siobhan Lomasney from Fletcher Day.’

The Legal 500 2023

Testimonials included in the edition, which were obtained through independant research:

‘Louise Allard is a stellar individual, her work is at a high level and she is hugely proactive and effective on behalf of her clients. She is fantastic to work with, very collaborative and insightful with great knowledge of the law as well as how to strategise effectively’.

‘Louise Poulton is one to watch, her command of her cases is impressive, she is diligent, hugely supportive and caring in respect of her clients and very easy to work with. Her grasp of the nuances in a particular case are excellent and instinctive. The way she prepares cases makes it very easy to come in as counsel and do a great job. She is fantastic to work with’.

‘I have mainly worked with Jennifer Granby. Jennifer is pragmatic and sensible, whilst also being approachable and client-friendly. Very easy to work with and has a very good grasp of the issues and of the best way in which to present her clients’ arguments’.

As a specialist firm with offices in London and Hertford, we focus on all areas of family law and the preservation of private wealth.  

If you would like to speak to a family solicitor about adoption, child arrangements, dissolution, divorce, domestic abuse, financial settlements, nuptial agreements, separation, surrogacy or any other area of family law, please call 020 7993 2936 to book a consultation or complete a Contact Request.  Alternatively, you can start your matter online using our Free Family Law Portal.

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Court-Ordered Child Maintenance

If child maintenance forms part of a Court Order, the rules for seeking amendments vary depending on when the Order was sealed by the Court and the clauses contained within it. Factors like the date, special clauses and the possibility of enforcement need to be considered.

Date of Court Order

If the Court Order was made in England and Wales between 5th April 1993 and 6th April 2002 (and the receiving parent is not in receipt of income support) the Order can only be varied through the Court.

If an Order was made after 6th April 2002 and has passed its first anniversary, the child maintenance element can be transferred to the CMS for assessment.  

If an Order is less than one year old, the child maintenance clause cannot be transferred to CMS and payments must continue until the first anniversary of the Order, unless and your child’s other parent agrees to a change.   In some circumstances, you can apply to the Court to vary the Order before the first anniversary.  A family solicitor can advise you on your chances of success.

How can I change a Court Order?

If you need to make a change, we recommend that you first contact the receiving parent to explain the situation. If that is not possible, or the desired progress is not made, a mediator or family solicitor could aid the negotiation process. We strongly recommend that any negotiation achieved should be recorded in writing, ideally in the form of a Consent Order and lodged with the Court.           

In matters where negotiation is unsuccessful, it would be appropriate to ask the Court to review the Order, to decide if child maintenance should be varied.

If you qualify to transfer child maintenance to CMS, you will need to pay a fee and provide full details of all parties for them to make an assessment.  Once this happens the child maintenance clause in your Court Order becomes null and void and you will become liable to pay the amount determined by the CMS.

How is child maintenance calculated by CMS?

When making their calculation the CMS will consider how much you earn, how many nights a week the child spends with you and whether you have other children who are dependent on you.

It is important to note, that the CMS calculates child maintenance based on your income for the previous tax year, meaning your liability could be increased or decreased when compared to your original Court Order. However, a recalculation is possible if your (the paying parent’s) income has changed by 25% since the last tax year or if you are now in receipt of benefits.

What if there are Special Clauses in the Court Order?

Some Orders contain special clauses such as contractual agreements and ‘Christmas Orders’.  Contractual arrangements can be stand alone or in addition to a Court Order. Where a parent has signed a contract to make maintenance payments, then varying payments would be breaching the contract. As changes to payments can result in serious repercussions, including being ordered to pay damages, judgement summons and potentially even bankruptcy, it is essential to seek legal advice.

Some orders contain what is known as a ‘Christmas Order’. This means that the child maintenance element of the Order renews annually and is therefore never over 12 months old. This means you cannot transfer the matter to the CMS. Any change to this Order would need to be by agreement of both parties and recorded in a further Consent Order or by application to the Court.      

What is the Risk of Enforcement?

Court Orders made in the jurisdiction of England and Wales (while the paying party resides there) could be subject to an Enforcement Order.  Therefore, we strongly recommend taking take legal advice before making unilateral changes to Court Ordered child maintenance payments.                

A Judge hearing such matters has a wide range of enforcement actions available to them including:

  • ordering that any maintenance owed can be taken directly from earnings;
  • placing a change on property or other assets;
  • sending bailiffs to seize belongings;
  • freezing funds in bank accounts.               
     

As the repercussions are so serious and can have long term effects on your financial situation, it is important to take advice from a specialist at the earliest opportunity.   

Legal Advice

Where there is a Court Order in place for child maintenance it is important to obtain advice before varying payments.

If you would like to speak to a family solicitor about the specifics of your situation, you can call 020 7993 2936 to book a consultation or complete a Contact Request.

      

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What does the Mediator do?

The mediator’s primary role is to ensure all participants are able to voice their feelings and opinions, whilst avoiding arguments and keeping the momentum in negotiations.  The mediator is impartial and will not take sides or give an opinion on any matters discussed between you.  However, they will explain legal principles and help you to identify and explore different options, so that you can make informed decisions. 

What are the benefits of Mediation?

Mediation has many benefits, not least that it is usually cheaper and quicker than other methods of reaching settlement.  You may be able to resolve differences with only a few sessions of mediation, whereas court hearings can take months or even years.  Because you reach your own agreements, you have the discretion to decide where you are willing to compromise, rather than having decisions thrust upon you.  This enables you each to demonstrate a level of respect for each other and hopefully remain amicable after the process.   Mediation should be a safe space to discuss differences.  Discussions are without prejudice and confidential between the parties and the mediator.  

A mediator does not have the authority to make decisions on your behalf, you can choose to create a binding agreement at the end of the mediation.  If you cannot reach agreement and the matter is taken to court, the content of the mediation will remain confidential, and the court will not be made aware of any of the details.

When is Mediation not appropriate?

Mediation is suitable for most types of family law dispute. The courts want you to reach your own agreement if you can, so participation in a Family Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) is now a requirement before making certain applications to the Family Court.  There are circumstances in which mediation is not appropriate, such as where there has been coercive control or domestic violence in the relationship. In which case the MIAM will show that mediation is not a viable option for resolving your issues and it is necessary to involve the courts.  

The key to a successful mediation is the mindset of the participants and your ability to make appropriate compromises in order to reach an understanding that is agreeable to you both.

Child Inclusive Mediation

Child Inclusive Mediation is an alternative means of resolving children matters, which can help you lay the foundations for a strong co-parenting relationship moving forward.  Child inclusive mediators are specially trained to work with children and can assist by being a neutral party that can ascertain the child’s voice.

The practice is best suited to secondary school aged children, who are mature enough to know their own minds and have their own reasonable opinions about the situation. You can read more about child inclusive mediation here.

Mediation Funding

The Government is running a family mediation voucher scheme to help people with the cost of mediating disputes involving children. This is a time-limited scheme intended to support recovery in the family court and encourage more people to consider mediation, where appropriate. At the time of publishing, over 4,400 vouchers have been issued with 77% of cases resulting in a resolution.

The Government has increased the funding for this scheme twice so it is likely that funds will be exhausted by the end of March 2022 so we recommend acting soon. You can find more information about the scheme here.

Legal Advice

You are able to take independent legal advice at any stage of mediation and it is possible for a solicitor to attend mediation with you if you wish.  We are able to help you prepare a legal proposal to present at mediation, review the legalities and fairness of proposals made to you and coach you through the process. To book a consultation with one of our team of divorce lawyers and children lawyers you can call us on 020 7993 2936 or make a Contact Request here

Alternatively, you can Get Started Online to receive a Free Confidential Report outlining your position.

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Child Contact Centres can help by providing an impartial environment for children to enjoy contact with their non-resident parent away from the conflict of their parents’ relationship.  They can also be invaluable in helping to rebuild the parent and child relationship after a long absence. 

What are Child Contact Centres?             

Contact Centres are safe, neutral places where children can spend time with their non-resident parent or family members.

The centres are often set up in a similar way to nurseries or playgroups with an assortment of toys and games for children of all ages. There will be a mix of private rooms and communal spaces, some have outdoor areas such as playgrounds attached.

The centres are run by volunteers, paid staff or a mixture of both. Each staff member will have a CRB check and most have backgrounds in childcare or social work. The staff remain impartial and do not side with either parent, they are there just to help facilitate contact in situations where it may be difficult for the parents to do so directly, or where they may be safeguarding concerns.

When would it be appropriate to use a Child Contact Centre?   

Contact Centres are extremely useful where there has been domestic violence between the parents, where there are concerns for safety such as a parent with alcohol or substance abuse issues, or simply where things are too emotionally raw for the parents to participate in direct contact.

Where there has been a large break in contact, contact centres can assist by providing a safe space and support to re-establish contact between the parent and child.

Different types of Child Contact

  • Supported contact: Sometimes families need a safe space for contact, perhaps where communication has broken down between parents, but there are no direct concerns for the child’s safety. In this situation centre staff will be on hand nearby and can support the family where needed.
  • Supervised contact: This is useful where there is a genuine concern for the safety and wellbeing of the children in the care of the parent. A contact centre worker will present at all times during supervised contact so the child will benefit from close supervision, as well as additional support.  A comprehensive contact report can be made available, which will flag any concerns or reassure the other parent, and the court if needed, that contact is progressing well.
  • Staggered Handovers: In cases where it is not safe or desirable for the parents to meet, contact centres can offer staggered handovers. Usually, one parent will be on site 15 minutes before contact and stay 15 minutes after contact to ensure their paths do not cross and centre staff will conduct the handover.
  • Handovers Only: Some centres offer handover support only, which is useful where the level of friction between the parents is high but there are no safeguarding issues. Where a centre has a wide range of opening times it is possible for a parent to collect a child from the Contact Centre on day and enjoy overnight contact within their own home, before returning the child to the centre for an assisted handover to the resident parent the following day.
  • Community Contact or Escorted Contact: Where it is agreed that the child can enjoy time in the community with the visiting parent, usually after a pattern of safe and sustainable contact has been established, a supervisor from the centre can escort the child on trips to places such as the park, cafés or shops with their non-resident parent or family member.
  • Indirect Contact: As well as facilitating direct face to face contact, most contact centres can also support indirect contact such as telephone calls and video calls, as well as providing an address for letters, cards and gifts to be sent to.

Do I need a referral to use a Child Contact Centre?         

Parents, family members and young adults can a contact Child Contact Centres directly.  It is also possible for solicitors acting on behalf of the parents to arrange contact or for the Court to make an order directing which Child Contact Centre should be used.

Child Contact Centre Fees

Some child contact centres are free, but the majority charge a reasonable fee to cover the costs of running the centre. As the fees vary it is advisable to check with your local centre.

Find out more

The National Association of Contact Centre’s website contains lots of useful information for parents, as well as age-appropriate information and illustrated stories for children and young people. You can access the website here.

Legal Advice

If you find yourself in need of assistance with your child arrangements, please get in touch.  Our specialist knowledge and proven results with child arrangements can help you to navigate through this difficult time.

If you would like to speak confidentially to our team of family solicitors you can call 020 7993 2936 to schedule an appointment or make a Contact Request here.

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Many apps offer specific features to help parents manage their children’s busy lives. Most have calendar functions, often with colour coding and the option of accepting or rejecting a request. Others have safeguarding software which can monitor track and record conversations, helping them to remain constructive.  These records cannot be tampered with and can be used by legal professionals, family therapists and even Courts.

With such a wide selection of apps available, it may not be easy to know which one to try. We have prepared a shortlist of apps we think are particularly useful in different family situations.

Low Conflict Parenting

Cozi

Cozi is marketed as an organising tool for busy families, helping to keep everyone on the same page by communicating and coordinating plans and schedules, managing to do lists and sharing shopping lists. 

It is ideal in co-parenting situations where parents are generally on the same page, but need a little help coordinating schedules and care of the children.  In addition to the calendars and lists it has features such as recipes and meal planners, which are for invaluable for parents of fussy eaters or children with specific dietary requirements.

Cozi allows for other users such as children or grandparents to be added, which can be helpful for families with young teens or where there is additional childcare support.

Another plus point is that, at the time of writing, the basic version of Cozi was free.  Although we note that this version does include in app advertising.  Those who prefer an ad free experience, can pay US$29.99 per year for the premium version which includes additional features like a birthday tracker.

Useful All-Rounders

2Houses

The 2Houses app is designed for separated parents and offers a number of features to help with communication and practical organisation.

It has a calendar facility to help with scheduling contact and a finances tool to log expenses from which you can view simple expenditure reports.  Conversations on the app can be printed or archived, but never deleted.

An appealing feature is the journal, which is designed to bridge the physical gap when children are with their other parent allowing you to exchange anecdotes and quotes from children, news, photos, videos and notes, as well as sharing more formal school and medical information. There is also a Wish List feature to help with gift ideas for children.

Parents can give access to and assign specific rights to children, family members and others as appropriate.  At the time of writing, 2Houses was charging an annual fee of £99 per family.

WeParent

WeParent is designed to help modern families of all shapes and sizes to coordinate their children’s busy lives and is especially useful for separated parents.   It focuses on minimising conflict and stress between parents and other caregivers who may be integral to maintaining the children’s schedules.

The app offers tools to help manage communication and logistics including shared calendars, appointment lists and expenses lists, as well as the ability to share photos and documents.

Family members and other caregivers who are added can perform a limited number of actions including sharing photos, notes, documents and creating events.  The app also allows for input and use by legal professionals, with a messaging platform that is fully tracked.

WeParent’s founder has a PhD in psychology who says that the app focuses on tried and tested methods researched by psychologists around the world.  At the time of writing, WeParent was offering different payment options including monthly, annual and a lifetime subscription for US$199.

For Difficult Communication

OurFamilyWizard

For fraught situations where communication is difficult or tense, the OurFamilyWizard App offers a variety of resources and tools. A stand-out feature is the Tone Meter, which automatically picks up negative language used in messages and suggests alternatives.

The app is designed to help parents in high conflict reduce the additional friction caused by miscommunication and misunderstandings, providing them with a clear but indirect way of communicating. It offers read receipts and login history to end ambiguity about what was said and when, with records which cannot be manipulated.  There is also the ability to check-in at change-over locations and record parental expenses, which some parents will find helpful.  

Families working with third-party professionals such a counsellors, mediators or solicitors may benefit from the professional access feature which enables them to access, oversee and even assist with communication via the app.

The OurFamilyWizard website states that the app is recommended by family law professionals and courts in UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and USA.  At the time of writing, prices start at £79 for a one-year subscription.

Which App is Right for You?

Whether separated or together, parents are increasingly turning to apps to help organise family life and there is a huge choice available.  There are several apps which have been specifically designed to help separated parents, with some being particularly well equipped for high-conflict, tense relationships. We have included information on only a few.  It is advisable to look around and read independent reviews from parents in a similar situation before deciding which to use.  If you are not sure, it is worth noting that many platforms offer a free 14-day trial.

Legal Advice

Apps can be invaluable in reducing conflict from miscommunication as well as reducing the likelihood of unexpected arguments taking place in front of the children, but it is not always possible to eliminate disagreements about core concerns. 

If you are unable to resolve an issue with your child’s other parent or caregiver, our experienced children solicitors may be able to help. Our specialist knowledge and proven results with child arrangements can help you to navigate through this difficult time.

If you would like to speak confidentially to our team of family solicitors you can call 020 7993 2936 to schedule an appointment or make a Contact Request here.

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A recent 2021 report from Nuffield on ‘Children’s Experience of Private Law Proceedings’ found that children felt largely unheard in proceedings and that their wishes, feelings and voices were often lost in the process. The report flagged that that the impact on children can last them into their adulthood.

The findings indicated that children want to engage more with the process and be involved in the decision making that affects every aspect of their day to day lives.  This echoes what we hear from many of our clients and their children.

We explore how Child Inclusive Mediation can give older children a voice, how it can be used to resolve children matters outside of court and how it can benefit families who are already in proceedings.

What is Child Inclusive Mediation?

Child inclusive mediation can also be known as direct child consultation or child led mediation, and it is where a mediator meets directly with the child. Child inclusive mediators are specially trained to work with children and can assist by being a neutral party that can ascertain the child’s voice.

The specialist trained mediator will speak with the child independently, they may speak to the child with each of the parents individually and with both parents present. Both parents can be reassured that the mediator is not biased and that the child’s views are genuine and not parent led.

Who is child inclusive mediation suitable for?

The Voice of The Child Report 2015, commissioned by the Ministry of Justice, recommended that children aged 10 or over should have the opportunity to meet with the mediator.

The practice is best suited to secondary school aged children, that are mature enough to know their own minds and have their own reasonable opinions about the situation.

Both parents need to be willing to engage, and consent to the child engaging with the mediator.

What type of issues can be brought to child inclusive mediation?

The most common issues brought to this type of mediation are disputes around which parent a child may live with, how much time the child will spend with each parent, where a child will go to school. However, child inclusive mediation can help parents reach agreement over any issues relating to their children.

Who is child inclusive mediation NOT suitable for?

Child inclusive mediation is not suitable for children under the age of 10. It may cause significant stress for younger children to be put in that situation, but in certain exceptional circumstances it may be considered only with the agreement of both parents and the mediator. 

Cases where there are significant safeguarding concerns, such as matters with domestic abuse and child welfare concerns, will not be suitable for child inclusive mediation.

When can child inclusive mediation be used?

Child inclusive mediation is incredibly flexible and can be used alongside other resolution methods.

Where parents are already in mediation and the mediator does not offer child led mediation, it is possible to engage a separate mediator and return once the child’s wishes have been gained.

Where parties are negotiating though solicitors and child arrangements are at an impasse, rather than engaging in lengthy and often expensive trial by correspondence, it can be helpful to gain insight into an older child’s views, which can help unlock the outstanding issues and move the family along.

When parents are engaged in court proceedings and it is not possible to obtain a CAFCASS Section 7 report, it may be possible to engage with child led mediation to bridge that gap. This would be far quicker than waiting on a CAFCASS section 7 report, which at present can take between 12-16 weeks. Child inclusive mediation can be a part of court proceedings with the agreement of both parents and the directions of a Judge. While the child’s view in the process is persuasive, it is worth noting that it is only one of the 7 points on the welfare check list that the court takes into consideration when making a determination in the best interests of a child.  

Are there any other benefits?

When parents separate it triggers a period of significant change and adjustment for children, which is often beyond their control, and this can be highly stressful and upsetting for them.  A key benefit is that the child can feel empowered and that they have some influence of the changing situations around them.

Child inclusive mediation is a child focused method of resolution that allows the child’s voice to be heard in a process where it would often be lost. The use of child inclusive mediation can help focus parents and create the foundations for a strong co-parenting relationship that can last for a child’s minority years.

Legal Advice

At Allard Bailey Family Law, we encourage parents to keep their children’s needs front and centre of every matter.  We are experts at helping parents to resolve issues about their children. If you find yourself in need of assistance to divorce or separate in a way that makes your child’s needs the focus, please get in touch.  Our specialist knowledge and proven results with child arrangements can help you to navigate through this difficult time.

If you would like to speak confidentially to our team of family solicitors you can call 020 7993 2936 to schedule an appointment or make a Contact Request here.

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As it is not always easy to keep a conversation going, we share some practical ideas to help you continue your parental role and strengthen your bond when you cannot be together.

Educational Activities

  • Homework help:
    • we all have our strengths and weaknesses and if you are best placed to assist with certain homework, or if it will help the other parent for you to do so, you could set up a regular video call to support your child with their studies.
    • schools have started to use more online platforms to set homework and tasks which you can help older children with through screen sharing.
  • Reading: you can read to your child via video call so you can show them the pictures and vice versa.
  • Languages: if your child is learning a language you could set a specific time each week to practice with them on the phone or video call.  You could also write to each other through the post or email in the given language.

Extra-Curricular Activities

Remember contact does not always have to mean a sleepover.  If it is possible to do so, you could take your child to specific regular activities each week then return them to their main home.  If not, you might:

  • Performing Arts: Schedule a regular recital or rehearsal so your child can perform for or practise with you via video call.
  • Sports: Call before and / or after a sports match to wish them good luck or discuss how it went.
  • Arts & Crafts: Choose a theme and draw / paint / make something to show each other on a weekly or monthly basis.  You could also order decorating kits for each of you and make them together via video call. 

Fun and Games

  • If your child has access to a mobile phone or tablet, you can play a variety of games such as scrabble and chess or even mini golf.  Some games require you both to be online together but others are ongoing so you don’t have to be available at the same time to play.
  • Virtual trips to a museum or zoo can be lots of fun, especially in colder months or on rainy days.  There are many websites with recordings of live footage of different animals which you can both see by sharing your screen so you can talk and watch the videos together.  There are tours of museums from different countries so you can look at varied exhibits and artefacts without having to queue or be in a crowd.
  • If your child loves films you could choose films to watch and then discuss together on the phone.  If you and your child both have access to a Netflix account, you can watch a film or show at the same time and use the chat box to communicate with each other.
  • If you and your child have a gaming console, you can play games together and use headsets to talk to each other whilst playing the game.
  • Virtual escape rooms can help team working and communication skills for older children, whilst also having fun.

This list gives just a few of the many options for indirect contact that could help maintain your connection with your child when you are not together.  Every child and family is different so different things may work better for you. 

It is important to remember that the parental role does not cease just because a parent is not with their child and the same can be said for children’s emotions.  If parents can work together to create a positive environment and support their child’s needs, it will have a positive effect on their health, wellbeing and happiness.

Legal Advice

If you find yourself in need of assistance with your child arrangements and would like some advice on how to proceed please get in touch, a Parenting Plan or Child Arrangements Court Order might be beneficial in your circumstances,.  Our specialist knowledge and proven results with child arrangements can help you to navigate through this difficult time.

If you would like to speak confidentially to our team of family solicitors you can call 020 7993 2936 to schedule an appointment or make a Contact Request here.

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What is a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a written record of the agreement made between parents about how they will care and provide for their children following a separation.

What does a typical Parenting Plan include?

A parenting plan includes the basic information identifying both the parents and the children.

It sets out the practical day-to-day arrangements for each child. It is essential to include information on living and care arrangements, such as who the child will live with and who the child will spend time with. It is important to cover specific details like how much time the child spends with each parent, what times and days as well as the arrangements for birthdays, holidays and special occasions.

It can also cover arrangements for how care for sick children or isolating children will be divided between the parents and their respective homes.

Comprehensive plans can go on to include information such as who will be responsible for communicating with the nursery, school, doctors and dentist.

It is not unusual for a plan to contain information on pocket money, maintenance for children and what will happen if one parent’s financial circumstances change.

The parenting plan can also set out how the parents will communicate with each other, such as what method of communication they will use and how frequently.

The advantages of a Parenting Plan

In a situation where there are no safeguarding concerns, a parenting plan can be a great benefit to assist a positive co-parenting relationship. This is because a parenting plan encourages the parents to remain child-focussed, which is extremely important in separation.

It sets the agreement out clearly which can provide consistency, and this can help the child get used to their new circumstances.

In formulating the parenting plan both parents will have to determine their approach to big decisions like how they will decide on schools, medical care and communication. This means that further down the line when these issues arise, there is already the framework for how to deal with them and you can side-step unnecessary stress and conflict. 

The greatest benefit is that a parenting plan is unique to your family and gives the parents full control over how they will deal with all decisions for the children in every circumstance. It can be varied very easily between the parents as the children’s needs change and develop over time and tailored to each child.

How to create a Parenting Plan

There lots of useful guides online to help support you with creating a parenting plan. The most comprehensive one is available free of charge on the CAFCASS website, you can access it here.

Ideally, both parents would be able to sit down and work through the parenting plan guides and worksheets together. Where things are more difficult after a separation it may be helpful to have support of a trusted mutual family member or friend to act as a neutral third party. Family mediators can also assist with creating a parenting plan for your family.

Where things are extremely difficult, solicitors can help you to negotiate a robust parenting plan.

Do we really need a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is an extremely useful tool as it helps parents to look at future scenarios and decide how they will act in advance, which can take pressure off them and their children in the moment. 

Whilst it is not legally binding, the court does ask if there is a parenting plan in place on child arrangement application forms and this can be very persuasive as the intentions of both parents are clearly documented.

What is the difference between a Parenting Plan and a Child Arrangements Order?

A parenting plan is simply an agreement between the parents and can be changed at any time. On the other hand, a child arrangement court order is legally binding. This means that it should be viewed as a law upon your family. If one parent does not follow the court order, without varying it in court or without valid reason, then it can be enforced by the authorities. The parent breaching the court order may be held in contempt of court and receive penalties such as fines, community service and even imprisonment.

Is it possible to have a Parenting Plan Court-Ordered?

It is possible to have the living arrangements and contact arrangements recorded in a Child Arrangement Consent Order so that the parents have the certainty of knowing that their agreement is legally binding and enforceable.

As the children grow and parents enter new relationships, circumstances can change so recording the arrangement as a consent order can provide a level of reassurance that both parents will continue to remain child focused and commit to their agreement irrespective of what the future may bring. 

Legal Advice

If you find yourself in need of assistance with your child arrangements and would like some advice on whether a Parenting Plan or Child Arrangements Court Order could be beneficial in your circumstances, please get in touch.  Our specialist knowledge and proven results with child arrangements can help you to navigate through this difficult time.

If you would like to speak confidentially to our team of family solicitors you can call 020 7993 2936 to schedule an appointment or make a Contact Request here.

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We know this is not easy but it is really worth taking the time to think about these issues.

1. Choose the Right Time to Talk to Children

In our experience, the right time to speak to a child about separation is when both parents are certain that is what they want and what they are intending to do.

Ideally, both parents would be able to sit down together with a child and allow time for lots of questions and reassurance. It is essential that children have the time to understand that whilst their parents are opting to go separate directions, they are not to blame and are still loved by both.

The conversation should always be age appropriate, a teenager may need a little more information than a 5-year-old, but neither need to be involved in the nitty-gritty of the separation.  It is a conversation that will need to be revisited as the child grows and their understanding changes.

2. Make a Conscious Decision to Respect the Other Parent

Making a conscious decision to continue respecting and promoting a good relationship with the other parent can have a really positive affect on a child. This can include something as small as continuing to refer to the other parent as ‘Mummy’ or ‘Daddy’. It is important not to speak negatively about the other parent in front of, or within earshot of, the child as it could make them feel that they need to take sides.

3. Establish a Consistent Contact Plan

Establishing a regular contact pattern from the outset with both parents will ensure your child feels safe and secure in the knowledge that they are not losing a parent. Using a wall calendar which marks the dates that the child is with each parent can give your child a strong sense of where they are supposed to be without having to ask all the time.

If the contact plan involves school drop offs and collections, it can be confusing for children if they are unsure who is collecting them. It can also be helpful to have a weekly schedule in the child’s planner or book bag, so they always know which parent they are expecting at the school gates. Young children may find it helpful to know how many sleeps until they see their other parent. 

It is also important to remember that contact does not have to be in person, so time spent together could be supplemented with indirect contact such as regular phone calls and video calls.

4. Support Your Child’s Emotional Needs

There are lots of books and worksheets available to help a child come to terms with their new situation. ‘Two Homes’ by Claire Masurel, is a much acclaimed picture book tackling divorce and can help open the conversation with your child about the changes that are occurring around them and their feelings.

It is important to recognise that the separation is a period of change for the child and that it will affect all children differently so they may require some distinct support. Parents may want to notify schools or nurseries to the changes at home so that the school/nursery can keep an eye on the child’s wellbeing and give appropriate support if their feelings are expressed through behaviour rather than words. Lots of schools have strong pastoral care and counsellors that can provide additional support.

It may also be appropriate for a child to have regular contact with a neutral family member or friend who they can open up to.

5. Protect Children from Adult Matters

It is important that you do not involve children in adult matters as it can be very damaging and worrying for them. As a consequence of the pandemic, lots of services are offering remote or over the phone appointments, which means children can easily overhear what should be private conversations.  Parents should also be mindful of children overhearing things when they are talking to their family and friends. 

Parents should allocate a safe space to store solicitors’ letters, divorce papers and court orders to ensure that they are not accessible to children as reading them could cause real worry and harm to the child. Lots of information is now sent digitally and care should be taken to ensure there is a safe folder on laptops and other devices that children have access to.

Legal Advice

At Allard Bailey Family Law, we encourage parents to keep their children’s needs front and centre of every matter. We are experts at helping parents to resolve issues about their children. If you find yourself in need of assistance to divorce or separate in a way that makes your child’s needs the focus, please get in touch.  Our specialist knowledge and proven results with child arrangements can help you to navigate through this difficult time.

If you would like to speak confidentially to our team of family solicitors you can call 020 7993 2936 to schedule an appointment or make a Contact Request here.

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Allard Bailey Family Law joins with thousands of family professionals to launch Resolutions’ Parenting Through Separation Guide during Good Divorce Week.

The free guide is available to any parent seeking help during their separation. It contains advice about how to co-parent with a former partner, background on the common disputes that arise between separating parents, and how to talk to children about the painful topic of divorce or separation, plus much more.

Sabrina Bailey, Managing Partner of Allard Bailey Family Law, said: 
 
“The pandemic has put huge pressure on families and even more so on those who are separating. Naturally, most parents want to put their children’s interests front and centre, but it can be hard to know how to do this when you are faced with a really difficult situation that you haven’t been in before.

Relationship breakdown is one of the most stressful experiences in life, so it’s important for parents to have access to good, authoritative and professional advice that helps them to support their children in the best possible way. We hope all separating parents will use the Parenting Through Separation Guide, to help them find a better way forward for them, and for their children.

We will also be sharing a series of free blogs with practical tips and advice for parents throughout the week.”


Juliet Harvey, national chair of Resolution, said:
 
“I’m really pleased to have Allard Bailey’s support during Good Divorce Week. Resolution members do really important work in their community to help families separate in a constructive and amicable way. The more families who know about and use the free Parenting Through Separation Guide, the better equipped they will be to navigate the challenges divorce and separation brings, particularly when it comes to putting children first.”
 
Here’s an extract of advice contained within the guide:

Top tips for discussing divorce with your children

1. If your situation allows, try to have a joint conversation when all of your children are present. Keep this age appropriate.
2. Plan a series of conversations, including different follow up conversations, if your children are different ages. Be mindful that their reactions will depend on their age, developmental stage and their individual personality.
3. Reassure your children that it is okay to feel sad or scared and showing emotion is good. They can always talk to either of you and ask questions.
4. Remember you are a role model and your children are watching how you manage this situation. If they see that you are still their parents, making decisions together about them, then they will cope better.

Follow the link to access the full Parenting Through Separation Guide.
 


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Mediation

Mediation is the most popular form of ADR and has much positive feedback.  It is a practice intended to help the people in dispute reach agreement on their own. 

The idea is that you discuss the situation directly with the other party and try to reach an agreement between you.  All mediation is overseen by a trained and impartial third person, known as the mediator.  The mediator’s primarily role is to ensure all participants are able to voice their feelings and opinions, whilst avoiding arguments and keeping the momentum in negotiations.  The mediator is impartial and will not take sides or give an opinion on any matters discussed between you.  However, they will explain legal principles and help you to identify and explore different options, so that you can make informed decisions.  You are also able to take independent legal advice at any stage of mediation.

Mediation has many benefits, not least that it is usually cheaper and quicker than other methods of reaching settlement.  You may be able to resolve differences with only a few sessions of mediation, whereas court hearings can take months or even years.  Because you reach your own agreements, you have the discretion to decide where you are willing to compromise, rather than having decisions thrust upon you.  This enables you each to demonstrate a level of respect for each other and hopefully remain amicable after the process.  

Mediation should be a safe space to discuss differences.  Discussions are without prejudice and confidential between the parties and the mediator.  A mediator does not have the authority to make decisions on your behalf, you can choose to create a binding agreement at the end of the mediation.  If you cannot reach agreement and the matter is taken to court, the content of the mediation will remain confidential, and the court will not be made aware of any of the details.

Mediation is suitable for most types of family law dispute and the courts want you to reach your own agreement if you can, so participation in a Family Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) is now a requirement before making certain applications to the Family Court.  The aim is to see if it is necessary to involve the courts in your case, or whether mediation is a viable option for resolving your issues.  

The key to a successful mediation is the mindset of the participants and their ability to make appropriate compromises in order to reach an understanding that is agreeable to you both.

Note, the Government is running a family mediation voucher scheme to help people with the cost of mediating disputes involving children. This is a time-limited scheme intended to support recovery in the family court and encourage more people to consider mediation, where appropriate. You can find more information about the scheme here.

Round Table Meetings

Round table meetings allow you to work through issues constructively, in a professional setting, with input from your legal advisors.

Round table meetings are an increasingly popular way of reaching settlement in family law matters.  The idea is that all parties sit around a table together and focus on reaching agreement with their legal teams.  Although you would usually be at the table, it is normal for your Solicitor or Barrister to present your views.  It is therefore possible for you and the other party to be in separate rooms if you prefer not to see each other.  Discussions can take place over several days if the matter is complex and other experts such as tax advisors, forensic accountants and pensions experts can be involved if needed. 

In family law, it is not uncommon for a small point to block progress and prolong negotiations.  A round table meeting helps you to overcome this by providing a forum to identify and discuss any sticking points so that you can find a workable solution. 

Round table meetings are usually conducted on a without prejudice basis and are therefore confidential.  So, if the matter goes to court, neither the Judge nor the court will be made aware of the discussions or outcome.

Round table meetings can cover any aspect of family law, including financial and children arrangements.  For round table meetings to be successful, it helps if everyone in the room shares an ethos of problem-solving.

Collaborative Law

This approach focuses on working together, with the support of professionals trained in collaborative law, to reach an amicable and fair settlement.

In collaborative law, the focus is on collaboration rather than opposition.  The solicitors who are instructed must be trained in collaborative law, so you must first find the right solicitor.

Both parties and their solicitors sign an agreement at the beginning of the process to say that they will work together and try to resolve matters without court.

Key discussions would usually take place around a table with your ex-spouse and their collaboratively trained solicitor. These are called four-way meetings.

There are many benefits to this approach. Not only can it be cheaper and quicker than traditional litigation, it can also provide a safe and constructive environment in which to reach a resolution.  Unlike traditional litigation, where your timetable is dictated by court-imposed deadlines, with collaborative law you can determine your own schedule and how long the process will take. 

Once an agreement is reached the solicitors can draft documents to be approved by the court, which will make them legally binding.

A possible drawback is that if you cannot reach an agreement and fall back on the court process, you must both instruct new solicitors.

Arbitration

Arbitration is a formal process that involves an impartial adjudicator who resolves the dispute in a private tribunal.

In Arbitration you present your case to a neutral third party, known as the Arbitrator or Adjudicator, who will make a decision that is final and legally binding.  An arbitrator is a trained legal professional, often a Judge or a barrister.

There are many advantages to using arbitration if you are unable to reach agreement.  Arbitration is usually held in private and means you will avoid the public process of going to court.  You can decide which arbitrator to use between you or select a panel of up to three.  There is more flexibility, you control the timetable rather than the court dictating schedules and directions.  You have more consistency.  Unlike in court where you could find yourself in front of a different judge at each hearing, the same arbitrator can deal with all stages of your case.

It is usually swifter and less costly than court litigation.  Although this depends on certain variables such as the fees of the arbitrator, or arbitrators, and whether you represent yourself or attend with legal counsel.

There are many situations for which arbitration may be appropriate if you cannot reach agreement on your own, for example, the division of finances or property and for some child-related matters.

You should be aware that Arbitration is a formal and legally binding process.  Before attending Arbitration, you must commit to the process by signing an Arbitration Agreement, in which you agree that the decision made is final and cannot be appealed through further Arbitration or through the Court.  A solicitor can advise about the process and whether your dispute is suitable for arbitration.

Legal Advice

To discuss the methods of alternative dispute resolution that would be suitable for you, or to instruct a solicitor trained in Collaborative Law, please call us on 020 7993 2936 or complete a contact form.

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Can I enforce my English Financial Order for maintenance abroad?

This is very likely. England and Wales has reciprocal arrangements with countries around the world to enforce financial orders which are required to meet a person’s needs, such as child and spousal maintenance.

Can I enforce my English Financial Order for assets abroad?

The situation regarding assets which have been divided in the interests of fairness, such as property and pensions, is more complex. Enforcement depends on the order and where it is going to be enforced. If you are divorcing in this country, but have property abroad, it is advisable to gain legal advice before any agreements are made.

Can I enforce my foreign Financial Order in England?

This is usually possible if the divorce is recognised in this country, but it will depend on the arrangements that are in place between the English government and the country in which the order was made.

Legal Advice

For further advice, arrange a confidential meeting by calling +44 (0)20 7993 2936 or click here to complete a contact form.

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Although procedures are in place at English airports and ports to protect children from international child abduction, the ease with which we now travel around the world means that it can happen.  It is important that anybody affected by child abduction takes the earliest possible advice from a specialist solicitor.

I think my child is going to be taken overseas without my consent, what can I do?

It is important to act quickly to obtain a Prohibitive Steps Order to prevent the child’s removal and/or contact the police if you believe they are to leave imminently.

My child has been taken overseas without my consent, what can I do?

If you have Parental Responsibility and your child has been taken from England and Wales, there are legal steps you can take to recover them. To increase the chances of the child being successfully returned home, it may help to start legal proceedings in both countries. In this situation it is important to take early legal advice.

We live in more than one country, will this affect the case to have my child returned?

It is not uncommon for international families to have homes in more than one country if, for example, one parent has a job that requires them to spend time in different places. In these cases, it can be more difficult to establish where the child’s usual home is, but you should still be able to make the case that the child has a strong degree of integration into the social and family environment in the original country.

Is child abduction the same as kidnapping?

Child abduction is the legal term used to describe the unlawful removal of a child from their country of residence by someone connected to the child. It is distinct from kidnapping, which is abduction by a stranger, and should be dealt with by the police.

Legal Advice

For further advice, arrange a confidential meeting with one of our international child custody lawyers.  Call us on +44 (0)20 7993 2936 or click here to complete a contact form

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This is the law of the country and Brexit has not changed anything.

Practically speaking, anyone attempting to leave the country with a child needs to be able to prove that they are legally entitled to do so, or that they have the correct consent, regardless of where they are travelling. Anyone who has travelled abroad alone with a child or has a different family name is likely to have experienced this first-hand.

However, this system is not infallible and does not protect against the possibility of a child being taken overseas legally then not returned.

IF YOU SUSPECT SOMEONE IS PLANNING TO ABDUCT A CHILD
If you believe your child is at risk of being abducted internationally you should inform the police and seek immediate advice from a family solicitor who can help you to obtain a Prohibited Steps order to prevent their removal from the UK. Such orders are enforceable by the police and carry legal consequences if breached. In some cases, the Court will order that the child’s passport is revoked or prevent one from being issued.

To protect yourself and your child, it may be advisable to put a formal Child Arrangements Order in place so that parental responsibilities, living and contact arrangements are clearly defined and can be enforced if necessary. If you are having difficulty agreeing arrangements for your child, a family solicitor will be able to assist you with negotiations and help you to make an effective application to the Family Court if necessary.

Additionally, if you are concerned that a child is going on too many trips abroad, you can request that the Court imposes restrictions to keep the child in the UK for longer periods of time. It is advisable to seek legal advice to ensure there are suitable grounds for concern, before making an application to Court.

Reunite, an international organisation providing advice on child abduction situations, has produced a guide with detailed information on how to prevent child abduction and the signs to look out for, which you can read here.

IF A CHILD HAS BEEN ABDUCTED
There are no words for how worrying this situation will be, but there are laws and international agreements in place to help you secure the safe return of your child.

In the EU
The UK and all members of the EU are signatories to the Hague Convention, which was specifically created to protect children from wrongful removal across international borders. This convention sets out a procedure which is followed in cases of parental abduction, acknowledging custody rights and rights of access granted in signatory countries, to enable the child’s prompt return to their country of residence.

If you live in England or Wales and your child has been taken to or kept in a country that has signed the Hague Convention against your wishes, you can make an application for their return by contacting the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit.

Outside of the EU
85 countries have signed the Hague Convention so it is possible that it will still apply. In which case you will be able to make an application for your child’s return as outlined above. A list of Hague Convention members can be found here.

If your child has been taken to a country that is not part of the Hague Convention, you should contact the police immediately as they will be able to liaise with Interpol to establish the child’s whereabouts. Communication with the guardian who has taken the child will be key, as well as starting legal proceedings in that country to request the child’s return.

A family solicitor will be able to help with the international proceedings so that you can find the quickest and most efficient way of securing your child’s return. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit will also be able to provide advice.

Will the pandemic make it harder for a child to be returned?
Over the last year there have been attempts by parents to remove children to locations that are thought to have less risk from COVID. In one of the first reported cases in May 2020, a mother who took her child from the father in London to Greece was ordered to return the child after the Court found that Coronavirus is not justification for removing a child without consent.

Although the Courts are not operating at full capacity, urgent cases are still being heard and child abduction cases will be prioritised to ensure that children can be returned promptly. Even where travel restrictions have been imposed due to Coronavirus, the Courts have ordered the immediate return of children who have been abducted.

LEGAL ADVICE
If you need to instruct a family solicitor to assist with child arrangements or international relocation, you can arrange a consultation with one of our specialist family team by calling 020 7993 2936.

If you require urgent advice in relation to parental child abduction, Louise Allard (+44 (0)7505 343411) or Sabrina Bailey (+44 (0)7507 343443) can be contacted directly.

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In this blog we will first look at how jurisdiction is affected and then discuss the recognition and enforcement of orders, including child maintenance.

JURISDICTION
Which country will have the power to make decisions about my family?
Both EU law and the Hague Convention state that matters regarding children should be heard in the country in which the child is ‘habitually resident’. Habitual

Residence is a legal concept which is decided on each child’s circumstances. It generally reflects the country where the child usually lives, but there are exceptions so it is advisable to check with a family solicitor if there is any doubt about how it will apply to your child.

You should be aware that Habitual Residence can change over time and a key difference between EU law and the Hague Convention is that the Hague Convention enables jurisdiction to change if a child’s habitual residence has changed during proceedings. Whereas EU law assigns a jurisdiction for the duration of proceedings.

This is a notable difference for parents who regularly move between countries and wish for proceedings to take place in a particular country. However, it is unlikely to be a major issue as there is additional guidance that can prevent a change of jurisdiction if there are corresponding matters being considered in another signatory country.

Proceedings which began before 2021 continue to be governed by EU law so a change to a child’s habitual residence should not affect the forum in which ongoing matters are heard.

RECOGNITION AND ENFORCEMENT OF CHILD ARRANGEMENTS ORDERS

What do you do if you have a court order from the UK and you want to enforce it in an EU country?

If your proceedings began before 1st January 2021, it should be reassuring to know that Court Orders will be treated as if they were made under EU law, regardless of when they are issued. This means they will be automatically recognised by the country in which enforcement is being sought and enforced swiftly.

The Hague Convention will apply to all proceedings that start after 1st January 2021. Broadly speaking, orders made in a country that has signed up to the Hague Convention can be enforced by any other country that is also a signatory. This means that if an order is made in UK it should still be enforceable in all EU countries and vice versa.

However, it is likely that the enforcement of orders could take longer because orders made in countries under the Hague Convention do not have the same ‘automatic’ recognition as granted between EU member states. If you want to enforce an order in another country, you will first need to register the order in that country or obtain a ‘declaration of enforceability’. If this relates to contact it could cause delays in you being able to see your child, so it is advisable to speak to a family solicitor as soon as possible.

There are also some small differences relating to circumstances in which orders may not be recognised, so it is advisable to seek specific legal advice from a solicitor who is aware of the relevant international laws.

CHILD MAINTENANCE
Your child maintenance decision is still recognised in the EU if it was decided before 1st January or if your case was opened before then. If you have a decision you would like to be enforced, you can contact your nearest Maintenance Enforcement Business Centre who will be able to enforce this. There are two in England and one in Wales which you can look at following this link. If you are in Scotland you can contact the court where the maintenance decision was made or apply for a new order from the local sheriff court.

Although the process is straight forward, it might be useful to speak to a solicitor first if the enforcement of your order is urgent and you need advice.

LEGAL ADVICE
If there are any international considerations in your child arrangements, it is important to seek legal advice from a specialist family solicitor as soon as possible. A solicitor with international experience will be able to guide and support you in taking the correct steps both in the UK and abroad.

With the country in lockdown and many children still home from school, we understand that it can be difficult to speak about matters that you might not want them to overhear. You can email us to arrange a call at a convenient time or follow this link to start your matter online.

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Just like their parents, caregivers and supporters, children come in all shapes and sizes with their own set of challenges to face.  One thing they all have in common is that they thrive on love. 

At Allard Bailey Family Law, we thrive on helping families to form, grow and adapt to life's challenges. 

From traditional to blended and same-sex headed families, we advise parents and prospective parents who are married, living together and going it alone, as well as co-parents who share the care of their children.  We can and do help all members of the family, as well as non-related caregivers who are acting in the best interests of children. 

In all areas of child law, our mission is to find practical and realistic solutions so that children can be raised in a loving and supportive environment -  often against the odds and in difficult circumstances.  

Examples of Recent Cases

  • Advising on a complex international adoption and obtaining an Adoption Order for a single parent.
  • Representing a mother who lived in Spain and had to issue proceedings in this jurisdiction in order for her son to be provided for.
  • Representing a temporary foster carer who wanted to be joined as a party to care proceedings so that she could challenge the Local Authorities recommendation.
  • Gaining an order allowing a mother to relocate to New Zealand with her children.
  • Successfully challenging false allegations made against a father in Children Act Proceedings, which had led to him having no contact with his child, and securing a shared care arrangement.
  • Obtaining a Parental Order for the parents of a child born to a surrogate mother in USA.

Guiding Parents on their Journey

We work with Mums and Dads at all stages of the parenting journey, finding sensible solutions to even the most sensitive issues.

Adoption

When you adopt a child, you become their legal parent, assuming all parental rights and responsibilities for them.  You will transform the child's life and they will transform yours.  

Adoption is a rewarding, but challenging journey that people start for many different reasons. For UK adoption you will receive support from the local authority but many people still require legal advice.  Learn more about UK and International Adoption here.

Surrogacy

Surrogacy is becoming more common in UK, but there are strict rules that must be followed so it is advisable to seek guidance from a Surrogacy Solicitor before making any arrangements in this country or overseas.  Follow these links to learn more about Surrogacy and Surrogacy Agreements.

Co-Parenting

Co-parenting refers to the situation when two people or two couples work together to raise a child usually in one of two circumstances:

1.  Where parents were once romantically involved, but are able to move forward amicably and work together to put the needs of the child first.  This can be a delicate relationship and both the parents and child may benefit from agreeing a detailed Shared Care Agreement.

2. As a route to parenthood for parents who have never been romantically involved.  If you are considering this arrangement, we would always recommend that you enter into a Pre-Conception Agreement to ensure you are on the same page before a child is conceived.  Learn more here.

We advise parents at all stages of the co-parenting relationship, when things are going well and when there are disagreements that need to be handled with sensitivity.

Parallel Parenting

When parents separate there is often a lot of emotion, which makes it difficult to make joint decisions about children.

Parallel parenting  limits the parents' interactions, whilst enabling children to maintain a relationship with both.

Over time, many parents transition to a co-parenting relationship where there is more collaboration, but for others co-parenting will never be an option.

We assist many parents who need to limit or prevent direct contact between themselves and their child's other parent on a short or long-term basis. 

We can help you find workable solutions to all types of dispute and create robust Shared Care Agreements (sometimes known as Parenting Plans) which are in the best interests of your child.


For an initial discussion about your situation, please call us on 020 7993 2936 or complete a Contact Form.
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Do I need consent from my child’s other parent before taking them to live overseas temporarily?

English law states that everyone with Parental Responsibility for a child needs to give consent for that child to be taken overseas for any length of time.  However, if your child lives with you and that is recorded in a Child Arrangements Order, you can usually take them overseas for up to 28 days without permission.  If you require consent, but this has not been given, you can apply to the court for permission.

Can I move overseas with my child if I do not have their other parent’s consent?

If the child’s other parent has Parental Responsibility, they usually need to give consent for that child to live overseas.  If they do not agree, you can apply to the court for permission to relocate.  It can take a number of months, or even years for the court to make a final decision, so it is vital that legal advice is sought at an early stage.

What documents do I need to take my child overseas?

We recommend that the child’s other parent provides a letter of consent, which contains their contact details so that its authenticity can be checked. If you have a Child Arrangements Order that states your child lives with you then you can take your child overseas for up to 28 without permission. It is a good idea to take a sealed copy of the relevant Court Order when you travel.  We recommend that you check with your Solicitor if you need to do anything else, such as having documents verified. If you do not have the same surname as your child, you may be asked to prove your relationship to them if you travel. In which case, we advise taking extra documentation such as a copy of their birth certificate, adoption certificate or your parental order, as well as any relevant divorce or marriage certificates.

Legal Advice

For further advice, arrange a confidential meeting with one of our international child custody lawyers. Call us on +44 (0)20 7993 2936 or click here to complete a contact form.

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Child Arrangements Order

Courts can make a Child Arrangements Order to set out where a child should live and who they spend time with. This replaces the previous custody, residence, contact and access orders. 

Parental Responsibility

Parental Responsibility is the term used to describe the rights and responsibilities that parents have in relation to their children. A mother will always have parental responsibility. A father will automatically have parental responsibility if the parents are married when the child is born or if they are both named on the birth certificate (after 1st December 2003). Parental Responsibility can also be acquired if the parents sign an agreement or it is granted by the Court.

Specific Issue Order

Parties can apply to the Court to decide on a specific issue, for example what school a child should attend or whether they should have certain medical treatment.

Prohibited Steps Order

It is also possible to apply to the Court for an Order preventing a parent from carrying out a particular act or course of action, for example removing a child from the jurisdiction without consent.

Legal Advice

For further advice on any child law and child custody matters, please contact Louise Allard or Sabrina Bailey through the online enquiry form or telephone 020 7993 2936.

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Where does that leave people who want to reach a swift conclusion?

It is not surprising that our clients are increasingly looking for alternative methods to resolve issues that are already before the court or about to commence.  Whether the dispute relates to financial matters, property or arrangements concerning children, arbitration is an option that we are increasingly suggesting.

What is family arbitration all about?

Arbitration is a formal process that involves an impartial adjudicator who resolves the dispute in a private tribunal.  It is a process that can be used to resolve single issues as well as fully contested matters.

How does it work?

Arbitration is a voluntary process and both parties must agree to use arbitration to settle the issue(s) between them.

You can choose which arbitrator you wish to use based on their areas of expertise.  If you are unable to agree, there is a process available which will enable an arbitrator to be appointed for you.

During arbitration you present your case to the arbitrator who will make a decision that is final and legally binding.  A solicitor can advise about the process of arbitration and whether your dispute is suitable.

Is Arbitration suitable for child related issues?

Yes, providing there are no safeguarding issues. Since July 2016, arbitration has been available for children issues such as:

  • where a child should live;
  • contact arrangements;
  • educational or religious issues;
  • disagreements over a child’s routine or non life threatening treatment;
  • disagreement over a holiday abroad;
  • relocation within England and Wales and some international relocation (depending on the destination country in question)

There are some issues that cannot be determined by an arbitrator such as:

  • child abduction;
  • where the disagreement relates to an application to return a child to England and Wales from another country;
  • where there is a dispute over the administration of or management of life changing or life threatening treatment;
  • where a party lacks mental capacity or is a minor.

What about financial disputes?

Yes, these too can be resolved through arbitration with the added benefit of being completely confidential.  The process can be used whether you are/were married or living together.

What are the benefits of arbitration?

Arbitration is well suited to the ‘new norm’ of remote hearings via Zoom or Skype.  Many arbitrators will be experienced solicitors or barristers who are all currently using remote platforms to attend hearings and represent their clients.  Arbitration offers a wealth of benefits including:

  1. You choose the arbitrator
  2. Your arbitrator will hear the case from start to finish, ensuring consistency, which is often not possible in the court system
  3. You will not have to attend a congested court, where time is at a premium, and you will not be competing with other cases on your arbitration day. You can be assured that you will have the arbitrator’s whole attention
  4. It is private and the award (for financial issues) or determination (children issues) is never published, therefore confidentiality is guaranteed
  5. The decision of the arbitrator is binding (just like a court order) which gives both parties certainty
  6. The process is flexible and the parties can effectively decide upon the speed at which their case progresses
  7. You can choose where the arbitration will be heard. This can be at the arbitrator’s office or at a solicitor’s office. It offers a more relaxed experience for all parties
  8. In the long term, an early decision to arbitrate will enable both parties to avoid protracted and expensive court-based litigation
  9. If you both decide that an issue can be decided purely on paper, an arbitrator can consider the issue in hand and provide the award or determination in writing without seeing either of you in person
  10. You will receive the written award or determination from the arbitrator within 28 days, but often sooner. It is not uncommon to wait several weeks or sometimes months for a court to hand down judgment if it is not given on the day of the hearing itself.

It is also worth noting that you can apply to the court for an order to be made in the same or similar terms to the adjudicator’s award or determination, although this is not necessary.

What are the disadvantages?

As with all processes, what is considered an advantage by one person, may be a disadvantage to another.  A key point to note is that because the decision is binding, there are limited grounds to appeal an award or determination if you are unhappy.

What about the costs of the process?

Arbitration is usually less costly than court litigation, but this does depend on certain variables such as the fees of the arbitrator, or arbitrators, and whether you represent yourself or attend with legal counsel.

It is normal to share the fees of the arbitrator equally, although the arbitrator does have some discretion to order one party to pay more if their conduct during the process has been extremely unreasonable.

Is it for you?

In uncertain times, it is well worth exploring the benefits that arbitration has to offer, particularly when a court-based approach can be littered with delay.  Delay can increase legal costs and personal anxiety, which is unhealthy for anyone coping with family breakdown or trauma.

Legal Advice

We have highlighted arbitration as an effective alternative for those who would otherwise go to Court, but there are other Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) options available.  If you wish to explore whether arbitration, or another method of ADR, may be helpful in your case please get in touch with us at Allard Bailey Family Law.

To book a virtual consultation or telephone appointment with one of our team, please call 020 7993 2936 or complete the Contact Form on this page.

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