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Parenting issues often arise on the breakdown of a marriage or relationship. Matters such as where the children will live, how much contact they will have with the non-resident parent, and what responsibilities each parent has towards the children, can make the breakdown of a relationship or marriage even more difficult to manage.
It is always best to try to reach an agreement with your partner in respect of the arrangements for children without involving your solicitor or the court. If agreement is possible, then you need not take any further steps however, some parents prefer to record their agreement in a Parenting Plan. The terms set out in the Parenting Plan are not legally binding but they may help give some parents much needed structure.
If you are not able to reach an agreement, it is important to seek legal advice early on because, in some situations, delaying an application to court could be detrimental to your case.
The court can make a number of orders in relation to children, including the issue of which parent the child should reside with, and how much time the children should spend with the non-resident parent. The court also has the power to make orders preventing certain steps from being taken, such as the removal of a child from the jurisdiction, and orders requesting that certain steps be taken, such as allowing a child to have a blood transfusion or an operation. Parental responsibility is often one of the issues parents are confused about. In summary, if you are married, you will both have parental responsibility. If you are unmarried, only the mother will have it, but the father can acquire it in a number of ways. Parental responsibility gives you, the parent, responsibility for taking all the important decisions in your child’s life such as education, religion and medical care as well as enabling you to take day-to-day decisions in relation to your child’s nutrition and recreation.
Issues such as changing your child’s surname or removing it from the United Kingdom can also be difficult matters to deal with it. Generally speaking, the courts are not in favour of allowing a child’s surname to be changed, or it being removed from the jurisdiction, unless it is in the child’s best interest. What is in the child’s best interest will vary from case to case.