Divorce and children disputes

A relationship breakdown or divorce can be an upsetting time for any children involved. Making sure the children are looked after will be the priority for parents during the separation and divorce process and in the future. The courts support this view and aim to put the children’s interests at the heart of decisions made throughout the process.

In divorce proceedings the applicant is required to file a Statement of Arrangements setting out the proposed arrangements for children at the time when the divorce is issued.


In many divorce cases the proposed arrangements for children are agreed, in which case the court will not intervene and no orders will be made in relation to the children. The court will simply issue a certificate indicating it is satisfied that there is no necessity for an order to be made.

The courts are very keen for parents to work co-operatively in exercising parental responsibility and will urge parties to reach agreement, before it even comes to court. Even if matters have to be referred to the court, the court will adopt a conciliatory approach and urge the parties to communicate with each other and involve mediation services where appropriate.

Who has rights over the children?

Married couples each have parental responsibility for their children. Neither party has more rights than the other. The mother of a child has parental responsibility whether or not she is married. An unmarried father on the other hand, will have parental responsibility automatically if he was named on the child’s birth certificate registered after 1st December 2003.

A father without parental responsibility can acquire responsibility either by the signing of and registration of a Parental Responsibility Agreement or by obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order from the court.

What if we can’t agree?

Where agreement can not be reached in relation to children, applications to the court can be made. The court has power to make a range of orders, the main ones relating to children are:

  • Residence Order – settling with whom the children will live
  • Contact Order – the parent with whom the children live having contact with the person named in the order
  • Prohibited Steps Order – an order whereby the court does not allow a certain action. For example, one parent taking the children abroad
  • Specific Issue Order – an order determining particular issue regarding the children’s welfare and something that make impact on their lives such which religion should be involved in their upbringing

If court proceedings are issued in relation to children the court may involve CAFCASS (the Children and Family Courts Advisory Service). A CAFCASS Officer can be asked by the court to prepare a report as to the child’s wishes and feelings or indeed a fuller welfare investigation about the child’s circumstances.

At Napthens we have specialist lawyers who are members of the Law Society’s Children Panel. Our team can provide comprehensive advice in relation to all children issues.

Please ask about our fixed fee service available for advising on children disputes.

To talk to a member of our family team in confidence about divorce or to arrange a no obligation initial consultation, please make an enquiry or call us for an informal chat on 0345 671 0276