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Divorce & Family Disputes

Newspapers still talk about parents arguing over 'custody' of children or 'access' to them even though these words haven't been used in English Law for over 10 years. 'Custody' made children sound as if they were possessions being fought over rather than human beings.

An English Court does not make awards of custody. It will in any case only interfere if there is a dispute and only then when it is in the child's best interests. It can then decide with whom the child should reside. This is called a '
residence' order.

An English Court may also make an order setting out arrangements for a child to see or stay with a parent (or sometimes another family member) or to have some other contact such as by telephone, e.mail, or letter. This is called a '
contact' order.

Sometimes a Court may decide that a parent should be prohibited from taking a step that is not in a child's interests, such as taking the child to live abroad or changing the child's name. It will then make a '
prohibited steps' order.

Sometimes parents disagree over a specific issue involving their child such as the child's religious upbringing or schooling. They can if they wish ask the Court to decide on the issue. The Court can then make a '
specific issue' order.

Where the upbringing of a child is concerned the child's welfare is the Court's paramount consideration. It is important for a solicitor not to make ill-feeling between parents any worse. That requires skill and patience developed over time.

The cost of a legal dispute over children varies widely from a few hundred pounds or less to a few thousand pounds or more. A typical dispute over ‘contact’ where agreement cannot be reached and where a Judge has to decide what should happen may cost around £5,000.

(Also see Mediation).

N.B. for information only - this guide does not replace the advice of a solicitor.


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