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Navigating the Family Courts

Angie Parker is one of the most respected family lawyers in the region. Here she gives an overview of the challenges of navigating the Family Courts.

Separation and family breakup is exceptionally difficult. It’s inevitably an emotional time and trying to navigate through all the practical difficulties can feel overwhelming. It can be challenging getting into a new routine for the children and, of course, conflict can arise.

There are a number of tools available to assist separated couples in co-parenting including mediation, parenting apps and the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service’s (CAFCASS) parenting plan. However, sometimes these tools are not enough to prevent a parent making an application to the court, which can be an extremely daunting process.

CAFCASS will become involved in every application made under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989. This refers to applications for Child Arrangements Orders, which includes which parent a child lives with and spends time with, alongside specific issues such as education, location and name changes. There may also be a Prohibited Steps Order which prevents a party from, for example, removing a child from the jurisdiction.

CAFCASS’s involvement will initially be to prepare a safeguarding letter for the court. The organisation will make enquiries to see if either of the parties are known to the police or to see if the children are known to the local authority. Professionals from the group will also arrange to speak to each party over the phone.

At this stage CAFCASS is trying to ascertain whether there are any welfare concerns or whether it is simply a dispute between parents. This will dictate the path the proceedings then take.

If it is a dispute between parents, then the court will likely list the matter for a contested hearing and parties will be ordered to file and serve statements. If you find yourself in this situation, then legal advice is highly recommended. Don’t delay – contact the Family team at ORJ for a free half-hour consultation.

If there are welfare concerns then, depending on what those concerns are, the court can make a number of various orders to ensure it has all the information it needs to decide what will happen if the parents cannot agree. It is vital that case management is focused so that delays can be avoided.

Taking stock and having a clear picture of the concerns of the parties and other agencies where applicable is so important.

Early advice can be key before hasty, ill-thought-out actions are taken. Feel free to contact the team at ORJ for a free half-hour appointment. Email Angie.Parker@orj.co.uk or call 01785 223440.