• If you cannot agree where the children are to live, then one or both parents can apply to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order. The Court is only concerned with what is in the best interests of the children. It is much better for the children if you can agree.

    Even if you can agree where the children are to live, you still may not be able to agree how much time the children should spend with the other parent. The Court can also decide other disputes such as schools, changing the children’s surname and other major disputes. These are called Specific Issues and Prohibited Steps Orders.

  • This will depend on whether you have an informal agreement/no agreement or a Child Arrangement Order/court order.

    Informal agreement/no agreement

     Firstly, try to discuss the problem with your ex and try to resolve it between yourselves
     If this doesn’t work, consult a solicitor who can send a legal letter setting out your proposals
     Then, try referring the issue to a local family mediator or alternative dispute resolution
     Finally, apply to court for a Child Arrangement Order

    Child Arrangement Order/court order
     Firstly, try to discuss the problem with your ex without involving the court
     Then, write to your partner via your solicitors setting out proposals for a resolution
     Finally, apply to the court for your order to be enforced. This should be a last resort.

  • Technically speaking, legal access to children isn’t a right. Parental Responsibility gives you legal rights and responsibilities regarding where your children live, where they go to school and what medical treatment they receive. However, there is no automatic right to have contact with your children.

    The law is concerned entirely about your child’s welfare and for that reason will only grant access if it will improve your child’s quality of life. However, unless there are any safeguarding concerns, the court encourages relationships between the child and both parents. Therefore, in most situations you will be granted contact, unless it can be proven you will pose a risk or harm, to your child.

  • If your child’s other parent takes them from you without your consent, it is essential that you take expert advice about your situation as quickly as possible.

    Our experienced family law experts are well placed to help you in any of the following situations:
    • Your child has been taken from one part of the UK to another by the other parent without your consent
    • Your child is at risk of being – or already has been – taken overseas from the UK without your consent.
    If your child is in the UK, we can petition the courts on your behalf to have the child returned to your care.
    Our family law experts can also help if you:
    • Would like to arrange contact with your child who lives in another country and the other parent is not agreeable
    • Wish to relocate to another country with your child or you wish to oppose the other parent’s plans to do so
    • Have brought your child to the UK from another country and the other parent objects.
    Child abduction cases can be traumatic and often complex – especially when foreign laws must be considered. You need a team you can trust to work as quickly as possible to get the result you want.

  • This depends on any child arrangement order that is in place and the wording surrounding holidays and overseas travel.
    In England and Wales, the mother has an automatic right of parental responsibility. Fathers can obtain parental responsibility in the following ways:
    • By being married to the child’s mother
    • By being named on the child’s birth certificate
    • By entering a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother
    • By obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order from the Court
    If the father does not have parental responsibility for the child and the mother does not consent, any trip abroad with the child would be considered as child abduction in the eyes of the law.
    Should a father wish to take a child abroad without the consent of the mother, help from the courts must be sought.
    However, if the father has a child arrangement order that stipulates that the child lives with them, the father can take the child overseas for no more than 28 days without the consent of the mother.
    In such cases, the responsible thing to do is to try and reach an agreement with the mother to reduce stress and anxiety for all parties.

  • There may be many reasons why you would object to your ex-partner taking your child on holiday. To do so, you would need to refer to any existing court order to determine if you are legally able to stop them.
    You may be able to stop your ex taking your child on holiday if the holiday contact agreed in the child arrangement order doesn’t cover travel abroad.
    However, if you do not have a child arrangement order or it does not detail holidays or foreign travel, you may need the help of the court to put in place rules that clearly state that your ex will be unable to take your child overseas. It is important to note here that you must have reasonable grounds for objecting to this as merely not getting on with your ex-partner is not a valid reason for seeking legal intervention to prevent overseas travel.
    Your ex-partner will also be able to apply to the court to have the child arrangement order amended to include holidays and overseas travel. If you have just cause for asserting that your child should not leave the country with your ex-partner, it’s advisable to appoint a family solicitor to help you take the appropriate steps to ensure this legally cannot happen.

  • If a court order has been made that determines that a child lives with one parent and spends time with another, taking a child out of the country for more than 4 weeks at a time (without the permission of both parents) can be regarded as child abduction from a legal perspective.
    Child Abduction can be committed by parents, other family members or non-relatives including neighbours, friends and acquaintances.

  • Almost 2/3 of grandparents look after their grandchild on a regular basis. Grandparents however have no automatic legal right to a relationship with their grandson or granddaughter.
    As a grandparent parental responsibility is not automatic. Parents traditionally have parental responsibility and as a result can make the decisions about the day-to-day care and welfare of a child unless the Court makes an alternative order.
    However, there are situations where grandparents may need to acquire parental responsibility (PR). These situations can include where there may be Social Services involvement in a child’s life, when PR is required, grandparents may need to approach solicitors to ask for advice. Advice may also be needed if grandparents are not being able to spend quality time with their grandchildren.
    Court Orders
    There are several orders which are available to grandparents applicable in various circumstances:
    • Child Arrangement Order
    • Special Guardianship Order
    • Specific Issue Order
    • Prohibited Steps Order
    • Adoption

  • Only people with parental responsibility, for example parents, stepparents or guardians can make an application for a Contact Order. Whilst grandparent’s rights are limited, they can, however, apply for permission (leave) to apply for a Contact Order and the courts will consider the following:
    • The applicant’s connection with the child.
    • The nature of the application for contact.
    • Whether the application might be potentially harmful to the child’s well-being in any way.
    If you are successful, you can apply for a Contact Order through the court to gain access to your grandchildren. If one, or both parents raise objections you are likely to have to attend a full hearing in which both parties can put forward their evidence. It is essential that you receive good legal advice at this stage because you will need to persuade the court that you have a meaningful and on-going relationship with your grandchildren, which significantly benefits their lives.
    The court will always consider all the child’s circumstances and must only make an order where they consider it better for the child than making no order at all. For example, they might have to weigh up whether your continuing contact with the child might have a negative impact on the rest of the family relationships, again it is only in extreme circumstance that a court will refuse access to grandchildren. We have successfully helped many grandparents resolve disputes amicably and gain access to grandchildren.
    If you need help with access to your grandchildren, please call us and speak to one of our experts.

  • A stepparent can only acquire parental responsibility for a child in very specific circumstances including:
    • When the court makes a Child Arrangements Order that the child lives with the stepparent either on their own or with another person. However, these types of ‘stepparent’ orders are uncommon.
    • When the stepparent adopts a child which puts him/her in the same position as a birth parent.
    • Through the signing of a Parental Responsibility Agreement to which all other people with Parental Responsibility consent. This is a formal document which needs to be signed by all the parties and then registered at court.
    • When the court has made a Parental Responsibility Order following an application by the stepparent. On acquiring parental responsibility, a stepparent has the same duties and responsibilities as a natural parent.

  • The child’s birth mother will automatically have parental responsibility. The child’s father will automatically have parental responsibility if he is married to the child’s mother or if the child was born after 1 December 2003 and he is named on the child’s birth certificate. As a stepparent no matter how involved you are in the lives of your partner’s children, or how much you contribute to their upbringing – financially or otherwise – you will not automatically gain parental responsibility. Remember, an unmarried partner is not legally a stepparent.

  • Parental responsibility is defined as ‘all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, a parent of a child has in relation to the child and their property.

  • In many marriages, the family home is the main asset. Agreement will need to be reached and agreed upon as to whether the person who stays in the home should buy the other’s share, whether the house will be sold, and proceeds split or if the primary carer of the children stays in the house until the youngest child turns 18.

  • A straightforward uncontested divorce usually takes between 4-6 months. However, it can take longer if it is delayed due to certain situations for example, issues with children, property or money. These issues need to be resolved between the two parties to avoid delay.

  • The parties’ pensions will be considered in financial proceedings. Each party is required to give financial disclosure, including their pension values. It is possible to argue that a pension or some of a pension should not be considered and shared for various reasons, however the value and type of the pension will need to be disclosed. Whether the pension is shared will depend on the circumstances of your case.

  • For divorces filed after 6th April 2022 a Final Order will be received upon finalisation of the divorce.

    A Final Order would not ordinarily be applied for until financial matters have been resolved, so how soon you apply for a Final Order will depend upon how swiftly a financial agreement is reached. The earliest you can apply for a Final Order is a statutory period of six weeks and a day after the pronouncement of the Conditional Order. Once the application for a Final Order has been filed with the Court, it is usually pronounced within a couple of days.

  • Finances are dealt with separately from the divorce itself.
    The aim is to achieve a fair outcome looking at all the circumstances of the case and taking into account each partner’s resources. These include:

    • Properties (including the family home)
    • Savings and investments
    • Pensions
    • Income
    • Business interests
    • Financial commitments

  • Make sure any decision to separate is final; changing your mind further down the line may be confusing and upsetting.
    Pick the right moment (well as close as you can get), when people are relaxed and calm. Avoid bedtime or school drop-off. You need to be able to answer all their questions and have the time to support them. Lots of hugs help.

    Separation is even tougher on children if their parents are not on good terms. Try and sit down to tell them together. By doing so you are helping them to see that it is a joint decision and that you both care and are still in their lives.

    Young children don’t understand adult relationships. They may not know what separation or divorce means. So, keep your language simple and talk openly and honestly, leaving them out of any conflicts which may arise.
    Be clear about what will happen practically and changes to day-to-day life for the family. Children need structure and routine to feel safe. Explaining the changes will help prepare them. Many parents make a planner for the wall so the children can easily check when they are seeing each parent.

    Children often think it’s their fault if their parents argue, so take time to reassure them that this is not their fault at all. Explain gently that separation is a difficult decision for adults and that it happens to a lot of families.
    Telling them it is tough at first but that things will get better, helps them to understand this is not forever; life and the family will move on.

    However, tempted you are to put your side of the story across, it will not help the situation. Don’t make it about who has done what. The most important thing is helping them to adjust and show them that you are both still there for them.

    Finally, reassure them. Not just in this conversation but throughout the process. Love, security, safety and clear boundaries throughout the divorce process will help your children to deal with the divorce the best way they can.

  • In order to apply for a divorce in the UK you must have been married for at least 1 year. It is recommended you use a solicitor to represent you in the divorce proceedings as it is a complicated process. A solicitor will ensure that the procedure is carried out efficiently to avoid any delays or holdups.

    A divorce petition will be sent to your spouse by this the court along with a ‘an acknowledgement of service form’, which they will need to complete and return within 7 days. Provided the court is satisfied that the paperwork is in order a date will be set for the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi which is the first stage in the divorce. Then six weeks and a day after the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi the petitioner can apply to court for the decree Absolute of the divorce, this is the formal document confirming that you are formally divorced.
    To obtain a divorce our solicitors will:
    • Outline your options
    • Explain the divorce process and what is required at each stage
    • Start the divorce process by completing the required forms
    • Give advice and support with related legal issues. For example, living arrangements, finances and future arrangements for any children.

    In the event your case does go to court, your solicitor will represent you in court, they will then explain what is required from you and what the judge’s decision means for you.

  • We are open as follows;

    Monday – Friday: 9am – 5:00 pm
    Weekends: Closed

    But please feel free to pop, us an email outside of these hours with any enquiries you have and someone will get back in contact with you as soon as possible.

  • Yes, we also cover Cornwall and Somerset.

    Somerset Telephone:

    01823 785070

    Three of our solicitors offer expert advice in Somerset, please call us to make an appointment.

    Cornwall Telephone:

    01872 307888

  • Plymouth
    Telephone: 01752 674999
    Email: [email protected]
    Princess Court,
    Plymouth PL1 2EX

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  • How do I find your Exeter office?
    We have two offices in Exeter Oriel House and Balliol House.
    Oriel House is opposite the Court.
    Southernhay Gardens,
    Exeter EX1 1NP

    Balliol House is situated next to the Barnfield Theatre.
    Southernhay Gardens.

    View on Google Maps
    Exeter EX1 1NP

  • If you need family law advise you can either call us on 01392421777, you can email [email protected] or you can complete our online form Contact Us | Family Law Solicitors | The Family Law Company

  • With over 30 years specialising in Family Law, we began our journey as Hartnells before becoming Hartnell Chanot. We are now The Family Law Company but our registered name with the Solicitors Regulation Authority still shares our original name.

  • The Family Law Company are one of the largest dedicated family law specialists in the South West. Advising clients across the UK and overseas.

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