Contact and residence disputes concerning children

Why would someone need this service?

This service would be important to the parents or close relatives of children who are concerned about the living and contact arrangements for children with whom they have a close relationship, for instance when a parent or grandparent does not feel that they are being allowed sufficient contact with their child or grandchild. There may also be situations in which a parent or other relative is concerned that the child is not being looked after properly by the parent with whom they are living and that they would be better off living elsewhere, and they may want advice on what steps they can take.

It can be a difficult subject to approach and many may find they get nowhere in discussions directly with the other party or find it difficult to raise the subject at all. They may feel that the best course of action would be to seek advice from legal professionals.

How does the process work?

There are three ways in which it may be possible to resolve these disputes:

(a) It may be possible to reach agreement directly between the parties just by discussion, helped by solicitors, in which case as long as the terms of agreement are confirmed in writing and both parties have a copy of that it may not be necessary to formalise the arrangements any further if both parties are agreed on them.

(b) There are a number of local mediation services available. We can provide advice to you regarding this, such as how the mediation is likely to work and to obtain costs estimates for the mediation. Grant Saw could also support you by being on hand to talk about issues which arise from the mediation via telephone or at a meeting whilst the mediation is ongoing. We could also then assist in formalising any agreement which is reached following the mediation.

(c) If mediation is refused or does not work, or it is not considered appropriate to your personal circumstances, then a more formal method of sorting out the problems over the arrangements for the children is available through the local county court. A parent or close relative of the children will file the relevant court form and pay a fee (presently £210) to start the process. The court office will then fix a date for a first hearing. At this hearing the Judge will be sitting with a Welfare Officer from CAFCASS to try to help the parties to reach an agreement themselves before proceeding further with the court process.

If, after the first hearing, the parties are not agreed on what arrangements are best for the child then the Judge will make some court orders as to what needs to happen before there can be a final contested court hearing to determine the issue of what arrangements for the children are in dispute. That normally involves both parties filing detailed written statements giving their views on what the best arrangements are for the children. An independent Welfare Officer from CAFCASS will also talk to both parties with a view to that officer providing a background report to the court to assist it in making a decision.

There would then normally be two more court hearings, a short one to make sure everything is ready and a final hearing perhaps lasting a day. That whole process is likely to take up to nine months from start to finish although the court can at any hearing make orders about what should happen in the interim while the case is going on.

How long does it take?

A first hearing will usually take place between six and eight weeks after the start of a court case. The whole process from the start to a final hearing may well take upwards of nine months although if agreement is reached between the parties it should normally be possible to stop the process as and when such agreement is reached.

Is it expensive? How do the costings work?

Your first consultation with us will be for a fixed fee of £100 + VAT for a face-to-face consultation of up to one hour. When we meet, we will discuss with you what the costs are likely to be if the case goes to a final hearing.

What should people consider before calling?

Before calling Grant Saw, clients should consider whether they have made sufficient attempts to reach an agreement themselves and whether they have had any success in these efforts; if they have started to make progress, it is usually worthwhile to persevere to see if an agreement can be reached. Advice from us may however be helpful to you in trying to reach agreement.

A client should also consider whether mediation might be a better and more cost effective option, rather than issuing court proceedings. Mediation can be a very positive experience in concentrating on the needs of the child concerned, if the mediation process is started early enough.

Why are Grant Saw the best people for the job?

Here at Grant Saw we have an experienced team of lawyers, who specialise in this area and provide an efficient and cost effective service.

Contact and residence disputes concerning children myth busting

What myths surround this area?

Some people (and the media) still use the words 'custody' and 'access' when discussing this subject. However, the courts now use terms 'residence orders' and 'contact orders' to describe living arrangements and arrangements for the child to see other people regularly.

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