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Even when parents have been married, both parents continue to jointly and equally retain their parental rights and responsibility in respect of their children on separation (formerly known as Legal Custody). However, it is not always possible for parents to resolve the best arrangements for the children straight away.  Again, mediation should be attempted, but even if this does not resolve the issues, either parent may apply to the Family Court for what is now known as a Child Arrangements Order to decide the best arrangements for the children (formerly known as Residence and Contact).  There are no simple rules as to what should happen with the children when parents separate. The Court would make an order that it believes is in the best interests of the children in all the circumstances of the case.  This is commonly referred to as the “Welfare Principle” which is the most fundamental and important principle of all legal cases involving children.  The Court takes into account the child’s physical, emotional and educational needs, and also the child’s wishes and feelings, depending on their maturity. It goes without saying that Court applications in relation to children should be the last resort.  Every effort should be made by parents to agree arrangements for the children, making sure that the children know that despite their parents’ separation, both parents still love them and want what is best for them.

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We realise how traumatic and sensitive such cases can be and we treat them with the utmost priority and confidentiality. Matters involving children and courts can be stressful and difficult to understand as far as the law is concerned and we try to explain our advice in clear and plain English, keeping legal jargon to a minimum.  If you would like to speak to us, please phone any one of our offices or click the Contact Us button to fill in our contact form.




  • Children matters
  • Child arrangements order
  • Residence and contact


What is parental responsibility?

This was formerly known as legal custody.  It means all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent has in relation to the child and his property – Section 3 of the Children Act 1989.  The Family Justices Review has listed elements of parental responsibility as including, naming the child, providing a home for the child, having contact with the child, protecting and maintaining the child, administering the child’s property, consent to the taking of blood for testing, allowing the child to be interviewed, taking the child outside the jurisdiction of the UK and consenting to emigration, agreeing to and vetoing the issue of the child’s passport, agreeing to the child’s adoption, agreeing to the child’s change of surname, consenting to the child’s medical treatment and arranging the child’s education.

How do Courts resolve issues between parents regarding children?

The child’s welfare shall be the Court’s paramount consideration.  This is known as the Welfare Principle.  In deciding what is in the child’s welfare the Court shall have regard, in particular, to

  • The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding)
  • The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs.
  • The likely effect on the child of any change in his circumstances
  • The age, sex, background and any characteristics of the child which the Court considers relevant.
  • Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
  • How capable are each of the child’s parents, and any other person in relation to whom the Court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting the child’s needs.
  • The range of powers available to the Court under this Act in the proceedings in question.



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