We answer your frequently asked questions on legal issues with
Can you explain Parental Responsibility?
Responsibility means all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities
and authority which, by law, a parent of a child has, in relation to the
child and his property.
When a child is born, the mother
automatically has parental responsibility. If the parents are married,
both parents automatically have parental responsibility. If a child is
born to unmarried parents and the birth is registered after 1st December
2003 with both parents’ details this also gives the father parental
responsibility. Otherwise parental responsibility can be obtained by way
of a parental responsibility agreement entered into amicably by both
parents or a parental responsibility order made by the court.
What is a Child Arrangements Order?
Child Arrangements Order specifies the person with whom a child will
live and with whom they will spend their time (previously known as
Access, Contact or Residence Orders). A Child Arrangements Order
requires the person with whom a child resides, or is to reside with, to
allow the child to visit or stay with the other person named in the
order, or for that person and the child otherwise to spend time with
When the court makes a Child Arrangements Order in
favour of someone who is not the parent or guardian of the child
concerned, that person will have parental responsibility for the child
while the Child Arrangements Order remains in force.
known as 'access' or 'contact', Child Arrangements refer to any
communication or meeting between a child and his/her family. This can
include contact by letter or phone, as well as actual visits. The family
court’s view of contact is that it is the right of a child and is
usually in the best interests of a child to spend time with the parent
who does not live with them.
My partner won’t let me see my child – what should I do?
important to obtain legal advice at an early stage so we would
recommend that you come in to see one of our childcare solicitors.
may arise from mediation or a collaborative approach. Alternatively, a
strongly worded letter may be sufficient to get the situation resolved.
In certain circumstances it is appropriate to bring court proceedings.
We regularly make applications for Child Arrangements Orders, Specific
Issue Orders and Prohibited Steps Orders on behalf of parents and other
If arrangements for your child to spend time with
you have broken down then you should consider maintaining letters and
phone calls until matters are resolved. We would recommend cards,
letters, phone calls and/or social media. If you have parental
responsibility you are entitled to school reports and medical records
about your child so you should find out how s/he is doing by contacting
the school/ doctor.
Our legal advisers will outline the various options and the costs involved.
Will anyone listen to what my child wants?
is important that children are not asked to choose between their
parents and they should be safeguarded from exposure to conflict.
older children often want a say in the arrangements being made on their
behalf. This can either be achieved by parents listening carefully to
their children and adapting the arrangements, the children being
involved in the mediation process or within the court process.
Court has to decide what is best for your children, then their wishes
and feelings are relevant, dependent upon their age and level of
understanding. If necessary, a court can ask a special adviser from the
Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) to
ascertain the children’s wishes.
Our specialist childcare team will be able to advise you on the best way of dealing with your children’s wishes and feelings.
I’m worried about the safety of my children. What can I do?
you have any concerns about the physical or emotional welfare of your
child, contact Children’s Services as soon as possible (the Children’s
Services department of the local authority combines the old Social
Services and Education departments with other children’s services.) If
you believe the child’s welfare needs would be best met by you, you
should then seek legal advice with a view to making an application to
the court for a relevant order.
Children’s Services want to speak to me about my child. What should I do?
cooperate fully with them. If Children’s Services have received a
referral or are concerned about a child’s welfare, they have a duty to
investigate the concern.
If the investigation raises no concerns that will usually be the end of the
matter. Should Children’s Services have concerns about the welfare of
your child/children, they may call a “case conference” where you will
be invited to attend a meeting with people involved with your family
like a teacher, health visitor, midwife or the police to discuss the
concerns. You can take someone with you to the meeting and this may be a
A decision will be made at the case
conference as to whether your child’s name is to be placed on the child
protection register. If it is registered, a review conference (usually 3–6 months ahead) will be fixed.
What is family mediation and how does it work?
involves the parties talking together with an independent and impartial
mediator to try to resolve their differences. The mediator does not
give advice nor do they impose decisions – their role is simply to
facilitate the parties’ discussion. We can provide further information
I want to change my child's name. What can I do?
You will either need an order of
the court saying you can do so or you will need to execute a change of
Executing a change of name deed is a relatively quick
and straightforward process providing all people who have parental
responsibility for the child consent in writing to the change (and
subject to confirming the identity of all parties to the deed).
offer this service for a fixed fee of £90 inclusive of VAT. If you need
more information then please contact a member of the family team who
will be happy to talk you through the process.
Do you offer a free first appointment?
We don't offer a free first appointment to new clients to the firm, but we do provide the first meeting of up to one hour and a letter of legal advice at a fixed rate.
Payment needs to be made either before or immediately after the appointment.
Do I have to come in to see you?
If you are seeking legal advice it is usually best to arrange an appointment to see a solicitor/legal adviser so we can discuss matters fully. We will advise you about your position, what steps you might take and your legal costs. We are able to offer appointments in Carlisle, Cockermouth, Hexham and Newcastle. Please specify which office when making the appointment.
Please also see our divorce and separation pages.