Children

Have you thought about how your children are going to react when you tell them that you and your partner/spouse are going to separate? Have you considered the arrangements for them after your separation?

Parenting agreements

We can help you through this process by assisting with the preparation of a Parenting agreement.

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Research has shown that when parents agree the way forward and present a “united” approach, the children are better able to cope with the change in their circumstances and disputes at a later stage can be minimised or even avoided altogether.

The Parenting agreement will be tailored to your family’s individual needs following careful consultation with both you and your partner/spouse.

Parental responsibility

if you are the mother, you automatically have parental responsibility for your child. If you are the father, you will share parental responsibility with the mother if you are married to her; if you are named on the child’s birth certificate and he/she was born on or after 1 December 2003. If you have entered into a Parental responsibility agreement with the mother or have obtained an order of the court that affords you parental responsibility.

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Parental responsibility can also be obtained by step-parents with the consent of the natural parents or by way of a court order and by other “non-parents” in certain circumstances.

Parental responsibility enables a parent (or step-parent) to be fully involved in decisions that need to be made with reference to a child and is, therefore, an important aspect of parenting.

We can advise you as to whether you have parental responsibility and if not, how this can be obtained.

Child Arrangements Orders

A Child Arrangements Order regulates the arrangements concerning with whom the child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact and when the child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person.

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If there is a dispute as to whom and when the child should live or spend time with any person, we can assist and advise you in negotiations with a view to securing a settlement without having to make an application to the Court. Or, if this does prove necessary, as to the legal process in obtaining a Child Arrangements Order.

Moving to live permanently abroad

Did you know that if both parents have parental responsibility, neither parent can permanently remove the child from the UK without the written consent of the other parent?

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If there is a dispute as to whether a child can be permanently removed from the UK, we can assist and advise you in negotiations with a view to securing a settlement without having to make an application to the court; or if this does prove necessary, as to the legal process in obtaining an order either allowing or disallowing the child’s permanent removal from the country.

If the child is to be removed permanently from the country, then these negotiations will, of course, include arrangements for the child’s contact with the “left behind” parent following his/her removal.

“Internal” relocation (within UK)

Did you know that if where both parents share parental responsibility, one parent can seek to prevent the other parent from moving a child to another part of the country

When a child moves to another part of the country, they will be leaving behind a parent, their friends and extended family. These people may have formed an important support network for the child at the time of their parents’ separation or divorce. Contact arrangements may have to drastically change and the children will also have to change schools, make new friends and create a new social life.

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If there is a dispute as to whether a child should be moved to live in another part of the country, we can assist and advise you in negotiations with a view to securing a settlement without having to make an application to the court, or if this does prove necessary, as to the legal process in obtaining an order either allowing or disallowing the child from being moved away. If the child is to be removed to another part of the country, then these negotiations will, of course, include arrangements for the child’s contact with the “left behind” parent following his/her move.

Grandparental contact

Grandparents and their grandchildren have a special relationship and in today’s society, grandparents often provide valuable child care for the parents. Sadly, when parents separate there is sometimes a family rift which makes it difficult for the grandchildren to continue to see their grandparents and the children may suffer the loss of an important source of emotional support.

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If you are a grandparent who is experiencing difficulties in maintaining contact with your grandchildren, we can assist and advise you in negotiations with a view to securing a settlement without having to make an application to the court, or if this does prove necessary, as to the legal process in obtaining an order.

Special guardianship

When a child cannot live with either of its parents and would benefit from a legally secure placement other than by way of adoption, one or more individuals who are not a parent of the child can apply to the court for a special guardianship order. This Order will confer parental responsibility on the special guardian which can be exercised to the exclusion of anyone else with parental responsibility. A special guardian may be able to seek financial assistance and support services from the local authority.

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If you are caring for a child and wish to make the arrangements permanent, we can advise you as to whether a special guardianship order would be appropriate in your circumstances and as to the financial assistance and support services that may be available to you. We can assist and advise you in negotiations with a view to obtaining an order by consent or, if these do not prove successful, as to the legal process in pursuing a contested application through the court.

Change of Surname

If both parents share parental responsibility, it is not possible to change a child’s surname without the other parents’ consent.

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If there is a dispute as to the proposed change of a child’s surname, we can advise and assist you in negotiations with a view to securing a settlement without having to make an application to court, or if this does prove necessary, as to the legal process in obtaining an order.

If there is no dispute as to the proposed change of a child’s surname, or the parent wishing to change the surname does not share parental responsibility with anybody else, we can prepare a Deed changing the child’s surname as required.

Appointing a Guardian and Making a Will

Have you thought about who will look after your children should you die whilst they are still minors?

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It is possible for you to include the appointment of a guardian for any of your minor children in your Will so that, in the event of your death, your instructions as to who should be looking after you children who are under 18 are clear. Our wills, trusts & probate team will be able to provide you with further advice on this.

Maintenance and Child Support Agency

Save in exceptional circumstances, the court does not have the power to make maintenance orders with reference to children. Unless an agreement is reached between you and your partner/spouse on a voluntary basis, an application to the Child Support Agency may prove necessary.

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We can provide you with advice as to the amount you are likely to pay or receive by way of a child support assessment and assist you in negotiating an appropriate sum with a view to securing a settlement as to the amount to be paid on a voluntary basis.

School Fees

If your child attends fee-paying school, the courts can in some circumstances make a school fees or “top up” order: talk to us about whether that is something you need to consider

How we can manage your case

Resolution

Each member of our team belongs to Resolution, a family law body who believe in a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters www.resolution.org.uk. Accordingly the guidance we provide to our clients promotes settlement and alternative dispute resolution where possible. We are trained to put clients at ease whilst they are going through what can be one of the most stressful experiences they will face.

The collaborative process

When you look back on your divorce or separation, what would you like to feel? That it was a gruelling, gladiatorial battle in Court during which you both attacked each other through lawyers – or that it was a humane, sensible discussion to take you forward into your new life?

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The ending of a relationship is painful but how you choose to resolve financial issues or arrangements about your children can make a big difference. Court is needed in some cases but need yours be one of them? The collaborative law process allows a couple to sit at a table with both of their collaboratively trained lawyers to talk through the options before them. You can have as many or as few meetings (known as “four-way” meetings) as you need : they can be paced to suit the reality of your lives as you work through the rollercoaster of emotions of relationship breakdown. Having a supportive “space” in which to openly work through ideas and worries about your children or money issues can be surprisingly helpful at a time when you may feel that making any decisions is very difficult. Talk to Andrew Mercer, who is collaboratively trained, to see if this way of resolving differences might help you.

Solicitor correspondence and the Court process

In some cases alternative dispute resolution is not possible. We will support and guide you through the Court process.

Mediation

This is a process designed to resolve disputes without resorting to the Court and with the help of a neutral third party. A mediator cannot give legal advice to either party and will remain neutral whilst giving a general framework for potential solutions.

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If an agreement is reached we can draft the necessary paperwork for this to be approved by the Court for you.

FREE half hour meeting

We understand that family matters are sensitive and that's why we offer all clients a FREE half hour meeting at either our Salisbury, Southampton, Poole or Winchester offices so you can meet us before you have to make any commitment.

Need to speak to someone out of office hours?

Call us on 01722 426989.

We're members of Resolution

Which is a family law body which believes in a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters.

Resolution - first for family law

Collaborative law

We have collaboratively trained lawyers. They will try to help you resolve your issues in a non-confrontational manner. Often going to court can be avoided with this approach.

Recommended in Chambers

Recommended in Chambers

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Recommended in Legal 500

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Meet the team

Partners

Andrew Mercer
Partner & Head of Family Team
Family
Salisbury
01722 426954
07880 703 500
Family
Grant Cameron
Partner
Family
Southampton
023 8082 0488
07467 943444
Family
Juliet Mayhew
Partner
Family
Salisbury
01962 670677
07557 536244
Family
Emma Wilders-Pratt
Partner
Family
Salisbury
01962 670677
07876 334584
Family

Associates

Kimberley Davies
Senior Associate
Family
01202 339028
07388948735
Family

Paralegals

Dawn Gore
Paralegal & Certified Family Law Assistant
Family
Salisbury
01722 426945
07881 343 960
Family
Sara Willis
Paralegal
Family
Salisbury
01722 426963
Family

Trainee Solicitors

Sarah Huck
Trainee Solicitor
Family
Salisbury
01722 426989
Family

Legal Assistants

Caroline Nobbs
Legal Assistant
Family
Poole
01202 339010
Family

Legal Secretaries

Charlotte Gee
Legal Secretary
Family
Salisbury
01722 426903
Family
Emma Humby
Legal Secretary
Family
Southampton
023 8082 0453
Family
Anna Mason
Legal Secretary
Family
Poole
01202 339003
Family
Laura Sargent
Legal Secretary
Family
Southampton
02380820492
Family
Andrea Smith
Legal Secretary
Family
Salisbury
01722 426958
Family

Office Administrators

Hannah Cheney
Administrative Assistant
Family
Salisbury
01722 426960
Family