Clough & Willis Solicitors, Commercial and private legal services UK

Children Disputes Solicitors

Disputes between parents and relations over children can be painful and protracted. They should be resolved as soon as possible for the benefit of all involved, especially the children concerned.

We are family law specialists accredited by Resolution and can advise on all child related disputes. We can also advise on the appropriateness of referring the dispute to a mediator and deal with negotiation of child arrangements on your behalf. If required, we represent parents and grandparents within Court proceedings.

The best interests of the child or children should be at the forefront of any decision-making process; however, specific child-related issues, such as, where the child or children shall live, or how much time or otherwise have contact with any person can be resolved by the Family Court by applying for a Child Arrangements Order.  We aim to provide a service and solutions that are compassionate, appropriate and above all child-focused..

Court proceedings can usually involve applications for Parental Responsibility Orders, Child Arrangements Order. However, we also advise and represent parents on applications to the Court for Prohibited Steps Orders (e.g. to prevent one parent taking the child abroad) and Specific Issue Orders (e.g. the change of a child's surname, approve medical treatment, education, religious upbringing, etc).

On the 22nd April 2014, it became compulsory to attend a Family Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAMS) before making a family application to the Court. 

The Children and Families Act 2014 did not introduce and automatic entitlement to 'shared parenting'.  There is no parental 'right' to any particular amount of time with a child.  The Act instead refers to the importance of children having an ongoing relationship with both their parents after family separation, where that is safe, and is in the child's best interests.......a meaningful relationship is not about equal division of time, but the quality of parenting received by a child.

There is a presumption that a child will benefit by retaining contact both parents and that contact should take place unless it can be shown to be detrimental to their welfare.  A parent opposing contact must show good reason as to why an Order should not be made.

Parental Responsibility

The mother of a child at its birth automatically acquires parental responsibility (PR).

A father can acquire PR in the following ways:-

  • Marriage to the mother (at any time).
  • Both parents entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement.
  • Court order.
  • For a child born after 1 December 2003, the father will automatically acquire parental responsibility if with the mothers consent he is named as father on the birth certificate.

A step parent, may, following recent changes in the law also acquire Parental Responsibility with the agreement of those with it already or otherwise by court order. However, it is always worth bearing in mind any person with Parental Responsibility may delegate it to another at any time. This can be done by a simple letter to evidence this and is often used for grandparents acting as child minders.

Key Parental Responsibilities

A person with parental responsibility has all the rights, responsibility and obligations for the upbringing of the child. If there is more than one person with parental responsibility, there is a duty upon them to consult on any issue concerning a child's upbringing which in the event of dispute may require an application be made to the Court for a Specific Issue Order.

Key roles include:-

  • Providing a suitable home for the child
  • Having contact with/living with the child
  • Protecting and maintaining the child
  • Disciplining the child Choosing and providing for the child's education
  • Determining the religious upbringing of the child (if any)
  • Agreeing to a child's medical treatment
  • Naming the child/agreeing to any change of name
  • Accompanying the child outside the United Kingdom/agreeing to the child's emigration should the issue arise
  • Being responsible for the child's property
  • Appointing a guardian for a child if necessary (for example in a will)
  • Allowing confidential information regarding a child to be disclosed

Child Abduction Cases

The removal of a child out of the United Kingdom with the intent this be permanent is a criminal offence under the Child Abduction Act 1984 if done without the consent of any other person with parental responsibility or otherwise than with the permission of the Court. A person with a Residence Order may not remove a child from the United Kingdom for more than a month without the permission of the Court or otherwise with the written consent of all other persons with parental responsibility.

Child Taken Abroad

If you believe your child may be immediately removed from the UK (i.e. within 48 hours) you should contact the police and request they institute an "All Ports Alert". A photograph of the child assists.

In all child related matters the welfare of the child is paramount. There are numerous specific factors taken into account in the Court's overall discretion as well as all the circumstances of the case.

If you would like to arrange an appointment with Lee Marston or Marie Whittaker to discuss your rights as a parent in children disputes, please call on free phone 0800 083 0815 or contact by email or

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The contact for my name change and divorce was Marie Whittaker who again was completely professional and gave me complete confidence from out first meeting. My divorce proceeded smoothly, quickly and efficiently. I was updated regularly by letters and phone calls.

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I was very impressed with your firm at the outset when I first called in November 2009 after my uncles death. All staff from the receptionist and secretary through to the Partners were professional, friendly and helpful and provided the best response out of the 3 Bury firms I called.

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