Disputes involving children - do I really need a solicitor?

When it becomes complicated, then the answer is usually yes.

Your children are more precious than anything else and disputes relating to children can be very worrying and stressful. Most people believe that being represented by an experienced solicitor would be a very good idea, but there can be concerns about the cost involved. Not many people have so much money available that cost is not an issue.

In court cases relating to children involving what is known as public law, parents can often still obtain legal aid, without any means testing. These cases usually involve the Local Authority applying for care orders or supervision orders relating to children. In other cases involving public law, legal aid is still available but it is means tested and there has to be a reasonable prospect of success in defending or making a court application.

Most cases involve private law and usually concern disputes between parents or applications made by grandparents. Sometimes other people apply to the court, even the children themselves in the right circumstances. Legal aid is not usually available for these cases, except when certain conditions are met, even in quite serious cases and these days parties are usually left with the decision as to whether to be represented or to deal with the case themselves.

Good solicitors will try to resolve issues without court action. Sometimes, a letter which sets out what is needed, without being aggressive can be enough to resolve what appears to be quite difficult issues. At least such a letter might resolve some of the issues. If this doesn’t work, then the next step is mediation. Mediation is carried out by an independent and experienced person who will meet with both parties if they are agreeable to this and try and resolve areas of dispute in a non-confrontational manner.

If mediation doesn’t succeed, then court proceedings can be commenced.

Court applications can be made to resolve everything from one issue to many. Sometimes, disputes could relate to which school children should go to or how long children should spend with parents over Christmas. In other cases more basic questions need to be resolved, such as which parent should children live with and how often should the children see the other parent.

Some very serious cases involve allegations of violence, drug and alcohol abuse and issues relating to the emotional and psychiatric state of one or both of the parents. In many cases, a parent will be concerned relating to the behaviour of the other parent and that parent’s ability to care for the children during visits.

In some disputes, there are no serious allegations, but there is still real difficulty coming to an agreement relating to the children. One parent may allege that the other is totally unreliable. Should their care be shared? If not, how often should the children stay with the absent parent? Should there be overnight visits and should they be every weekend or every fortnight? What about visits during school holidays?

Orders can be made by the court dealing with child arrangements. It is sometimes possible to obtain a court order at the very first court hearing, by agreement, which deals with all the arrangements and even has a list of recordings dealing with the behaviour of parents and with other issues. A good order which deals with these matters in a proper manner is difficult to prepare and an experienced solicitor would be able to do this.

Many cases are not concluded at the first hearing and can involve one or more further hearings to resolve areas of dispute. If agreement cannot be reached, then there may have to be one or more contested hearings when evidence has to be given. A good solicitor will try to resolve a dispute without the need for such hearings. However, in some cases they are inevitable.

Parents and other parties will often struggle through court proceedings and deal with the many issues that can arise without representation or even legal advice. This is understandable as many people simply cannot afford to pay solicitors. If the cost can be afforded, then most people would agree that the money that could not be better spent than upon obtaining the right and fair outcome for a child.

BMD Law offers an initial free initial thirty-minute appointment to discuss issues relating to children in a friendly and professional enveironment.