When your world changes

As any parent knows, as soon as you have children, the world as you knew it changes, and your children become your priority

Children are the priority when it comes to contact arrangements
Children are the priority when it comes to contact arrangements

As any parent knows, as soon as you have children, the world as you knew it changes, and your children become your priority.

Equally, when a relationship ends, a parent’s priority is to ensure that their children are protected from the fallout.

Relationship breakdown is a time of uncertainty. Parents often feel very vulnerable about how their relationship with their child may be affected. Generally, it is a child’s right to be able to maintain a relationship with both parents, as long as that relationship is a positive and beneficial one.

Recently, the law has evolved and rather than assuming a child lives with one parent and has contact with the other, shared care arrangements are becoming more commonplace. Shared care does not necessarily mean that your child’s time is divided equally between his/her parents, but that there is a general legal acknowledgement that your child has a home with both parents and that the responsibility for and commitment to your child is shared.

The law tells us decisions about a child’s life should be made ‘in accordance with their best interests’. In real life, however, it is often challenging for parents to be able to agree what that general term means for their child and their own individual circumstances.

It is hugely important that a parent gets specialist advice at the earliest opportunity.

The job of any responsible family lawyer is to provide realistic advice about rights and responsibilities, assisting and guiding parents in making decisions about arrangements for their children.

In most cases the way to do this is by discussion. A lawyer can help with that in a number of ways and any good family lawyer will tell you that court proceedings are generally a last resort – after all, the people who know their child best are the parents. It is usually much better that parents make decisions for their children, rather than a court having to impose a decision.

Parents can be guided through the legal process and assisted in making long-term plans for their children, in a number of ways. Mediation is one option, and parents can access legal advice throughout, to give them the best chance of reaching a lasting agreement. Another option is collaborative law, during which parents and their lawyers meet together to establish how they will continue to parent their children together.

Resolution (www.resolution.org.uk) is an organisation of Family Lawyers.

The website is an excellent source of information about family law and lawyers generally, including mediation, collaborative law and the court process

Of course, there are some circumstances in which decisions require resolution by a family court. Again, a specialist family lawyer will be able to screen your case, identify whether this is necessary and, if so, represent you throughout.

Most people are aware that the Government has recently made major changes to the provision of legal aid.

Legal aid for family cases is now limited. Family lawyers recognise how disheartening this is for someone who desperately requires legal advice about their children, but simply cannot afford it. We are working hard to try to redress the balance and provide people with viable options such as ‘pay as you go’ services and fixed fees. If you need advice, but are unsure whether you can afford it, speak to a family lawyer and discuss the options available.

It is vital that if you need legal advice about your children, you take advice from a qualified solicitor who specialises in family law. Consulting a lawyer with an established regional base is also extremely important. A local lawyer will have links with other services, and will have a thorough knowledge of the local court system.

:: Helen Marshall is a family lawyer at Pearson Caulfield. She works with Sue Pearson and Paul Oxnard providing all aspects of family law advice. Helen and Sue are Resolution accredited specialists in children law. Helen is also a member of the Law Society Children Panel. Such qualifications recognise Helen and Sue’s knowledge of and experience in dealing with all aspects of law relating to Children. Furthermore, as Helen is a member of the Children Panel, she is qualified to represent children in court proceedings and frequently receives instructions to do so.

Visit the Family Law advertiser websites for more information:

Beecham Peacock Solicitors - The Personal Injury, Employment, Crime and Family Law Solicitors in Newcastle

David Gray Solicitors - Family Divorce Immigration Civil Mediation Lawyers in Newcastle

Hay &: Kilner - Offering a complete commercial and personal legal service to clients – locally, nationally and overseas.

Pearson Caulfield Solicitors and Barristers - Based in Newcastle City Centre offering a full range of high quality, good value, fixed price legal services

Ward Hadaway - One of the UK’s Top 100 law firms and a major player in the North of England with offices in Newcastle, Leeds and Manchester.



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