Family Law FAQs

With whom should the children live and how much contact should they have with the other parent?

This will be determined by looking at what is in the best interests of your children. The court will consider the following factors, should they be involved in the decision:

  1. Wishes and feelings of the child concerned, considered in the light of his/her age and understanding.
  2. The child's physical, emotional and educational needs.
  3. The likely effect on the child of any change in his/her circumstances.
  4. The child's age, sex, background and any characteristics of his/her which the court considers relevant.
  5. Any harm which the child has suffered or is risk of suffering.
  6. How capable each of those child's parents (or any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant) is of meeting his/her needs.
  7. The range of the powers available to the court in the proceedings in question.


Do Grandparents have any rights to see their Grandchildren?

Grandparents do not have any automatic rights in relation to their grandchildren however the Court does recognises the benefit to children in having a relationship with their extended family. In most cases the court will therefore look favourably on any application made by a grandparent for contact.


If domestic violence took place between the parents what contact should the violent parent have with the children?

Where the child has witnessed domestic violence he/she may have strong wishes and feelings towards the violent parent. The child may however be incapable of expressing what they want in an attempt to protect the resident parent or because they say what the resident parent wants them to say.

The child's physical and emotional needs are to live free of violence. Witnessing violence has a negative fact on their emotional well being. The child also has a physical and emotional need to live with a parent who is psychologically able to care for them and is also free of violence. The courts however, do believe that a child has an emotional need to have contact with both parents where there is no risk of harm.

It is thought that any child that has witnessed domestic violence has suffered emotional harm. The child's physical safety could also be at risk if a parent has anger management problems.

A violent parent could be said to be incapable of meeting the child's needs when they put the other parent at risk of serious harm by being violent to them.

When a court looks at this issue it will first need to look at how severe the violence was, whether the violent parent has some understanding of the effect of their behaviour and also whether they have done anything to address this behaviour. The court should only order contact that is safe to the child and parent.


How long does it take to get a divorce?

On average it takes between 5 and 6 months to obtain a divorce, if there are no financial matters to also deal with. If there are financial matters to resolve we often advise clients that they should wait to finalise a divorce until we have a final order in relation to the finances.


I am worried that my parents may force me to marry, what can I do?

It is possible to apply for a Forced Marriage Protection Order. This is an order that will forbid anyone from arranging or entering into a contract of marriage for you. The order can also forbid anyone from removing you from the country, from threatening you or from contacting you. It is important to obtain immediate protection if you believe that your family may plan to do this, and also for you to remove yourself to somewhere safe. Please contact us for urgent advice and protection.


My partner is violent to me but I am scared to leave, what should I do?

We can assist you in the following ways:

  • We can help obtain occupation orders excluding a violent ex partners from the home.
  • We can obtain non molestation orders to prohibit a harassing or violent partner from acting in this way.
  • We can advise on maintenance for the children and/or for a partner.
  • We provide information booklets about parenting plans and helping children come to terms with their parent's separation.
  • We can obtain court orders to prevent the children being taken away from one parent, to regulate contact, and to determine where the children live.
  • We can contact local refuges to find urgent accommodation.
  • We can advise on housing that is available and provide letters in support of any applications.
  • We advise on the way the criminal proceedings are conducted and liaise with the police domestic violence co-ordinators.
  • We listen to our client's concerns; we can then provide our client's with options and advise on all matters to enable them to have the strength to make informed decisions.


What is Child Abduction?

Child abduction is when a person takes or sends a child under the age of 16 out of the country without the consent of those with parental responsibility or consent from the court.

If a person has a Child Arrangements Order saying that the child lives with them, they can legally take or send a child outside the country without the consent of another parent with parental responsibility for up to 28 days.

If a person has a Special Guardianship Order for the child, they can take or send the child out of the country for up to 3 months without consent of everyone who has parental responsibility.  

Under the Child Abduction Act 1984 it is a criminal offence for a person to send or take a child under the age of 16 outside of the country without eth appropriate consent. Consent is required from the:

  • Mother of the child
  • Father if he has parental responsibility
  • Special guardian of the child
  • Holder of a residence order or child arrangement order
  • Local Authority, if the child is in care
  • Court, if the child is a ward of court.

I think my partner may kidnap my children, how can I stop them?

You should first secure the children’s passports and not allow any unsupervised contact with the children. It is then important to get urgent legal advice. It is possible to apply for a Prohibited Steps Order prohibiting the removal of the children from your care and from the country. If you believe the children will be taken out of the country imminently it may be necessary to ask the police to put out a ‘Port Alert’ so they will be stopped if anyone tries to take them out of the country. If your children are already in the care of your partner you may need to apply for an order that the children be located and returned to you. Stephanie Adams and Lucy Cohen from these offices are accredited experts in this field.

What should I do if my child is abducted by my ex?

If you believe that your child/ren may have been abducted by their other parent it is important to take immediate action. Child abduction cases require swift action to ensure that their location is identified, and they are swiftly returned.

The action taken will depend on where the child has been taken to. If the country is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Abduction 1980, we can assist you to make an application through the Central Authority to be appointed a lawyer in the country where they have been taken to, to seek an order for their return. If the country is not signed up to the Hague Convention facilitating their return can be much more challenging, however, our specialist lawyers are able to given you expert assistance to identify the most effective way of seeking their return.

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