Divorce & Family

Child Maintenance & Custody

Child custody is the decision about where your children will live after you get divorced, although lawyers and the courts no longer refer to it as “custody”. Nowadays, the terms “living with” or “child arrangements” are much more common.

Making an agreement about where your children live and how they split their time between parents is crucial to reduce any disruption in their lives. If your children spend most of their time living with you, you and your ex-partner will also need to come to an agreement about child maintenance.

At Devereux & Co, we understand that providing for your children after divorce or civil partnership dissolution will be one of your biggest concerns. We can provide guidance and professional support about a wide range of children related matters, including making living and financial arrangements for children after relationship breakdown.

Our promise to you is to keep your child’s interests at heart at all times. We will take all possible steps to promote your parental rights and help you come to an amicable agreement which works for the whole family.

For expert advice, get in touch with our child law solicitors in Shirehampton and Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol by giving us a call, filling in our online enquiry form with your queries, or by requesting an initial interview online.

Our child law solicitors’ expertise

Whether the decision to separate was agonising or simple, you are probably worried about the effect of the divorce on your children. Family upheaval can be stressful for children, particularly where there is conflict between their parents. That is why our goal is to make your divorce settlement experience as smooth and straightforward as possible.

The majority of families are able to come to an agreement about where their children will live and how child maintenance will work without having to go to court, reducing the cost and stress of the situation. We will assist you in discussions and negotiations with your ex-partner with the goal of coming to a strong and sturdy agreement which works in the long-term. We can also help you access methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) such as Family Mediation.

Child arrangements

Children law terminology has changed considerably in the past 30 years or so. It used to be the case that after divorce one parent typically got primary “custody” of the children.

This term was abolished in 1989 and replaced with “residence” with the non-resident parent getting “contact” with the children. Now, “residence” and “contact” have been replaced with “living with” and “spending time with”.

This new approach is to help promote parental equality between you and your ex-partner. This does not mean your children will have to split their time 50/50 between you. In most cases, the children will live with one parent most of the time but will also regularly spend time with their other parent – the actual split is entirely up to you and your ex-partner.

Parenting Plans

Once you and your ex-partner come to a decision about child arrangements, there are no other official steps you are required to take. However, we often recommend at least putting your decision in writing in the form of a Parenting Plan. That way, if there is any uncertainty later on about what was agreed, all you need to do is consult the Plan.

The Plan can include all the details about how you will look after your children going forward, including:

  • Where they will live
  • How much time they spend with each parent
  • When they spend time with each parent
  • How and when the contact will take place (for example, overnight visits or phone calls)

Consent Orders

If you are worried about your ex-partner not sticking to the Parenting Plan, we can also help you apply to court to make your child arrangements legally binding in the form of a Consent Order.  You usually will not have to attend court to get your Consent Order approved.

Child Arrangements Order

In some circumstances, it can be very difficult for parents to come to an agreement about arrangements for children. In these situations, you can apply to court for a Child Arrangements Order.

A Child Arrangements Order will decide:

  • Where your children will live
  • When they spend time with you and your ex-partner
  • How contact will take place

You may need to attend a court hearing to get a Child Arrangements Order, but we will be by your side every step of the way.

You can also go to court if you need other decisions made about your children’s upbringing, including:

  • Specific Issue Orders – to answer specific questions such as where your children should go to school
  • Prohibited Steps Orders – to prevent your ex-partner making a decision about your children, for example whether they should be taken abroad on holiday

Child maintenance

Child maintenance is an agreement between separating parents for the non-resident parent to make payments towards the children’s upbringing.

Agreeing child maintenance between you and your ex-partner is usually the fastest, cheapest, and least stressful method and Alternative Dispute Resolution methods such as mediation can help you come to a decision. Alternatively, if you cannot reach an agreement, you can apply to the Child Maintenance Service or, in certain circumstances, apply to court for a Child Maintenance Order.

Child Maintenance Service (CMS)

The CMS is a Government organisation which calculates child maintenance payments on families’ behalves where they cannot reach an agreement themselves. Be aware that there are fees for using the service unless you did not have the option of making an agreement without it, for example, because you are a victim of domestic violence.

The CMS uses an assessment process and formula to work out the payments according to the non-resident parent’s financial situation. They will also arrange and transfer the payments, annually review the arrangement, and take enforcement action against any parent who does not keep up with their payments.

Child Maintenance Order

Child Maintenance Orders are only appropriate for situations you cannot (or do not want) to use the CMS, such as:

  • Your ex-partner lives overseas
  • You have additional costs not taken into account by the service, such as costs to support a disabled child
  • Your ex-partner has a very high income and the CMS’s formula and set rates do not allow for high enough payments

Why choose our child law solicitors?               

At Devereux & Co, we are a reliable and friendly team of solicitors and legal professionals, having served local communities across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire for nearly 30 years.

We have extensive experience across all areas of family law, particularly divorce, separation and arrangements for children. Amongst our team, Oliver Early is a member of Resolution, an organisation of legal professionals dedicated to the positive and amicable resolution of family law matters.

When it comes to arrangements for children, we pride ourselves on providing an accessible, child-centred service which carefully promotes your rights as a parent and the happiness and welfare of your children. We will devote ourselves to helping you reach a suitable agreement as swiftly and cost-effectively as possible, avoiding any unnecessary stress for you and your family.

Get in touch with our child law solicitors in Shirehampton & Westbury-on-Trym

For expert advice, get in touch with our child law solicitors in Shirehampton and Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol by giving us a call, filling in our online enquiry form with your queries, or by requesting an initial interview online.