Want to spend time with your child(ren) after a separation/relationship breakdown? Looking for a solicitor in the Solihull area?

We can help you achieve long-term successful arrangements for your child or children whilst minimising the impact upon them

When a relationship has broken down and the tough decision to separate with your partner has been made, the next focus becomes your relationship with your child or children.  Our children are our world, our main priority, and we all want what is best for them. But what if you and your partner don’t share the same views as to what is best when it comes to arrangements for them post separation or divorce?  

Every relationship breakdown is unique, and although there is a legal framework provided by the law for disputes involving children, it very rarely achieves  an outcome on which both parents agree; one which continues to work for all those involved in the long term. For this reason, it is relatively rare for the courts to  make orders relating to children when a divorce is finalised. The hope is that the parents will be able to reach a mutually acceptable decision regarding the children. However, there are obviously situations where this is sadly not the case; where an agreement simply cannot be reached.  

How can we help?

At Wallace, Robinson and Morgan, we are highly trained and very experienced  family law solicitors, here to help you no matter where you are on your child arrangements journey.  We ensure the greatest chance of a successful outcome for you by gaining a thorough understanding of your situation and how it came to be, not only from a factual perspective but psychologically as well.  We make it our mission to help you achieve the best possible outcome with as little stress as possible for all those involved.

The nature of our involvement will depend upon where you are on your child arrangement journey. The scenarios in which we can help are detailed below;

1. Making your agreement legally binding

If you are lucky enough to come to an agreement with your ex -partner, with or without the help of a mediator, about the arrangements for your child or children following your divorce (or separation if you are unmarried), it’s a good idea to make a written record of your agreement in the form of a Parenting Plan.  This document is then something that you should both have a copy of so that it can be used for reference if needed in the future. This document can also be changed at any time providing both parties agree. If you want to make your agreement legally binding, we can help you. One of our family law experts will be able to draft a ‘consent order’ outlining the details of your arrangement.  It will include information such as where you have agreed that your child or children will live and how much time they will spend with each parent. Once this document has been drawn up and agreed by you and your ex- partner, we will get it recognised by the courts for you. It will be approved by a judge providing they believe that the decisions you have made are in the interests of your child or children and in the absence of any safeguarding concerns that would prevent them from making the order.

2. Collaborative Law

If  your scenario is not quite as straight-forward as the one above, do not despair!  There are several other ways of reaching an agreement without the trauma of going through the courts.  Collaborative Law is a new approach to the resolution of family issues and is being used increasingly where an agreement needs to be reached regarding child arrangements following the breakdown of their parents’ relationship.  A settlement is reached in a non-confrontational manner and without the need for court involvement, based upon cooperation between parties and the assistance of collaboratively trained lawyers in face-to-face meetings. As with mediation, Collaborative Law is based on principled negotiations. However, unlike mediation, where both parties meet with one neutral mediator who can’t offer legal advice, Collaborative Law involves each party instructing their own collaboratively trained lawyer who is present in each session and able to offer advice when required.  The other advantage to the collaborative law process is the fact that the lawyers who will draft and agree a final version of the court papers for you have been part of the agreement process, thus fully understanding how you arrived there. This reduces the chance of delays at this stage that might result from misunderstanding.

The team at Wallace, Robinson and Morgan are fully trained in Collaborative Law enabling us to use this highly successful process to help you to achieve an amicable resolution to any child arrangement disputes you may have.

What if an agreement can't be reached?

1. The Court System

In most cases you’ll have to prove that you attended a meeting to explore the possibility of mediation for your case before you can take the step to put your child arrangement disputes before the courts.

If you and your partner are still unable to come to an agreement you may have no choice but to issue court proceedings. At this point  CAFCASS (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services) will usually get involved.

The court’s primary responsibility is to the children in terms of their welfare and best interests.  If it gets to this point, which in our experience it rarely does, our experienced solicitors can negotiate on your behalf.  They undergo continued legal education throughout the year, which ensures they know the latest family law trends and updates that may impact your case.

If court becomes/has become necessary, what can I expect from the process?

Depending on which child arrangements you and your ex-partner disagree on, you can apply for a range of court orders to put arrangements into place that you are comfortable with. For example, you can apply for a ‘child arrangements order’ that determines where your child lives, when they spend time with each parent and what types of contact each parent has. If you have preferences regarding specific issues such as which school you would like your child or children to attend or a particular religion that you would like them to follow, you can also apply for a ‘specific issue order’ to this effect. If you wish to prevent something such as the child relocating abroad or to another part of the UK you can apply for a prohibited steps order.

Once you’ve applied for the relevant court orders, you will have a telephone interview with a CAFCASS officer who will prepare a letter for the court to set out the main issues in the case and provide the court with guidance as to what should happen next. At the first hearing a magistrate or judge will do their bit to encourage you and your ex-partner to reach an agreement.  If in their experience this option has been exhausted without success, the magistrate or judge will determine what happens next.

They will take your applications for court orders into account but will only make a court order if they think it is in the best interests of your child or children.  A wide range of issues will be taken into consideration as they work through their decision-making process. For example, where possible they will take the wishes and feelings of your child or children into consideration as well as their emotional, physical and educational needs, and of course your ability as their parent to meet those needs.   Practical considerations such as hours worked by each parent will be a factor, together with any health or social issues that may be detrimental to them. The impact of any changes upon the wellbeing of your child or children or anything in the proposed arrangements that could put them at risk will also be considered and taken very seriously.

The court proceedings path often involves two or more hearings so can be long, costly,  highly stressful, and the combative approach has the potential to cause greater distress and harm to your children and to your wider family in the long term. There are child arrangement cases where court proceedings prove to be the only way forward.  We will help you to ensure that you have exhausted all other options open to you before you embark upon it.

Why choose Wallace, Robinson and Morgan?

Here at Wallace, Robinson and Morgan, our team are trained in both traditional and Collaborative Law which is relatively rare, giving us the ability to help you wherever you are on your child arrangement journey. We are a friendly and approachable team of professionals, with more than 20 years-experience and a great deal of empathy for your situation, giving you the best opportunity of achieving child arrangements with which you feel comfortable and have your child/children’s’ best interest at heart. So, rest assured that whatever is determined to be the best path for you, you will be in the safe and experienced hands of some of the country’s most highly trained and experienced family lawyers.

Talk to us

    What to do next?

    Why not make an appointment to talk to one of our friendly family law solicitors – Kathryn or Kirsty – and they’ll listen and understand your situation in order to provide the right advice for you?

    Simply call us on 0121 705 7571 to book an appointment or complete the form above (rest assured your privacy is safe with us) and we will contact you to arrange a convenient time to discuss your requirements.

    Kathryn Ferris LLB (Hons)

    Head of Family Department

    Specialities: Divorce and Separation, Civil Partnership Dissolutions, Division of Assets, Cohabitation disputes, Applications relating to children, Collaborative Family Law, Nuptial Agreements.

    Kathryn is a trained Collaborative Lawyer and passionately believes that the use of this process means clients avoid acrimony giving themselves the best chance of achieving an amicable resolution. She is an active member of Resolution and the Collaborative Family Law Group West Midlands.

    Kathryn is experienced in all aspects of financial disputes but has particular expertise working with mid to high net worth clients who are separating after a long marriage. These cases often involve more complex legal issues such as how pensions can be retained or used flexibly to realise capital, business interests and identification of matrimonial and non-matrimonial assets.

    She also advises on matters concerning children including arrangements following separation, applications to relocate and applications by grandparents and step-parents. Should it prove necessary to involve the court then she takes a robust approach to ensure clients achieve the best possible outcome.

    Kathryn qualified as a solicitor in 2000 specialising exclusively in Family Law for the last 17 years. She is now Head of the firm’s Family Department. The most rewarding aspect of her role is helping clients move on to the new phase of their life with confidence and security.

    As a working mother she has plenty to fill her time away from the office, but particularly enjoys tennis, cycling, travelling and singing in the BID Solihull Pop Chorus Choir.

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    Kirsty Roberts
    Kirsty Roberts LLB (Hons)

    Assistant Solicitor

    Specialities: divorce and separation, arrangements for children and non-molestation and occupation order applications

    Kirsty qualified in April 2020 and joined the Family department as an Assistant Solicitor in July. She is a member of Resolution and her recent work has included preparing a contentious child arrangements matter for a fact finding hearing, dealing with a non-molestation order application resolved by way of cross-undertakings, and reviewing financial disclosure as part of financial remedy proceedings.

    Kirsty graduated with a 2:1 in Law from the University of Manchester and obtained a Distinction in the Legal Practice Course from BPP University in Birmingham. She then gained experience as a Litigation Paralegal at a Manchester firm and as a Legal Assistant in the Regulatory department of a London firm, before undertaking her training at a local high street firm.

    Kirsty enjoys reading, doing yoga every day and volunteering at her local nature reserve.

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