Ah, access. This term is still commonly seen on the TV and in the newspapers. It is not one that is used by family lawyers and hasn’t been since the Children Act 1989. The words used changed to ‘contact’ and then to the phrase ‘spending time with’ which is where we are now. Custody became residence and residence became ‘lives with’. Residence and contact orders changed to Child Arrangement Orders too.
Why, you might be thinking. Words are important. The words access and custody are a bit too … well, like ownership. And parents don’t own children. Parents have responsibilities towards their children and their children have their own rights.
Well, okay, you are thinking. The words are different but the question is the same. Do I have to get an order in respect of my children? The answer (and it is the one most often given in family matters) is.. drum roll please…… IT DEPENDS.
Courts will only make orders in respect of children if the orders are necessary. They will only be necessary if you as parents can’t agree what the arrangements should be for your children. Courts and judges take no pleasure in imposing arrangements for children on a family. It’s much better for you and your children if you can work together and agree things for yourselves.
I think there we have our answer. If you can agree arrangements between you, no order is needed and you won’t need to go near a court. If you really cannot resolve matters after trying discussion, mediation, perhaps negotiation via solicitors then you have the option of arbitration or court proceedings, either of which mean someone else making the decision for you.
So, no access or custody. Child focussed all the way!
If you need help with sorting out arrangements for your children, please contact me