Posted by Thomas Glover on 18th June 2024
Child Arrangements: Can one parent make the decision?

Arranging Child Arrangements after separating is not the easiest thing to do, and that is understood by everybody at The Family Law Company. Children Solicitor, Thomas Glover, looks at Parental Responsibility, what the court can do to assist parties make arrangements for children, and what can happen if one of the parties breach the order.

Do I have Parental Responsibility?

The first question we need to ask if whether you have Parental Responsibility. This is a legal responsibility which is recognised by the courts and other authorities. It can be obtained a number of ways, but the most common are either by being the birth mother or being married to the birth mother at the time of the birth, being on the birth certificate, or having a court order granting Parental Responsibility.

To be able to add your say in big decisions in your child’s life, such as schooling, living arrangements, and health decisions, you need Parental Responsibility. If there is only one parent with Parental Responsibility, legally, they can make the all the decisions relating to your child without your input.

If you are unsure if you have Parental Responsibility, or would like to speak with someone about obtaining this, please contact on the number or form below.


I have Parental Responsibility, who gets to make the decisions?

Where two or more people have Parental Responsibility, they should all be consulted before any major decisions are made for the child.

It is common for parents to disagree on how to raise their child. This may come down to different opinions, parenting methods, and experiences. The court expect parents to try to negotiate on issues before applying for a Child Arrangements Order. In some cases, parents come to an agreement on the issue after a discussion, but this isn’t always the case. This does not mean, however, that one parent can now make a decision without the consent of the other.


What can the courts do?

Where the parents disagree, an application can be made to the court for them to consider both parent’s reasons and make an informed decision on the child’s behalf. It is important to remember that the court doesn’t make the decision based on who presented the best, or who had the most expensive solicitor. The court must consider the law and whether the proposed arrangements are in the best interest of the child. To do this, the court will consider what will help keep the child’s life stable and limit any upset which may come about from the proposed arrangements.

The court may, after considering the best interests of the child, make a Child Arrangements Order stating who the child is going to live with and when they will visit or stay at the other parent’s house. It may be the case that the child lives with each parent and unequal amount or 50/50.

The court may also address which parent gets to make decisions on certain issues, such as saying the child must be enrolled at a certain school, or the child is not to be removed from their school without consent from both parents. If it is not specified, it is expected that both parents will need to make a joint decision or make a new application to the court to deal with that specific issue.


The other parent made a decision without me, what can I do?

Firstly, we would advise seeking legal advice so you can make an informed decision on what to do next, and we can ensure anything that needs to be done, is done so swiftly.

The court frowns upon a parent making decisions without the other parent unless there is a good reason why they could not. The court may change the Child Arrangements Order that was made previously to reflect the new position. This may include the court making an order to be sent to the child’s school to explain they cannot be unenrolled without consent or a court order, a term that the child cannot move outside of a certain area, set out specific contact arrangements that if broken may include financial penalties, or make a conditional term that a backup arrangement applies if the original order is broken.


Look what happened in Court

In a recent case from February 2023, a mum was provided with money to buy a house in an area close to the dad and the children’s school. She decided to use the money to move to the neighbouring city, and did not ask the court or the dad for permission. She removed the children from school and then stopped the children’s contact with their dad. She said the reason was she could no longer afford the travel costs to get the children there.

The Judge was not pleased with this and summed it up as the mum undermining dad’s role in the children’s lives. The Judge said “She cannot now come to the Court and say ‘because of the decisions I made without asking the Court or the Father, I am not able to facilitate the contact and the Father must come here’.” The Judge felt the mum failed to prioritise the children, and that the Court had to prioritise them instead.

The Judge ordered that the children were to live with dad on alternating weekends, and mum had to take the children to him. The Judge warned the mum that if she stopped contact or broke the court order again, the court would order the children to live with dad and to see mum every other weekend. To make sure mum didn’t make holiday decisions without dad, the Judge ordered that each parent would hold one of the children’s passports so permission will always be granted for them both to go away. Finally, the court considered whether to make mum pay for dad’s legal costs as her actions breached the order.


How does this help me?

If you feel this sounds familiar in any way and you would like legal advice on your situation, please do not hesitate to contact one of our team where we would be more than happy to help.

Do not feel you need to go through this alone, or that you can only obtain legal advice when you need to go to court. There are many ways which having a solicitor in your corner early in the matter can help reach your desired outcome without the need for court at all.

Need some advice? Get in touch today

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