Contact with your Children – how to settle your differences without going to court

Whether you are married or living together, splitting up can be an emotional time. If there are children involved, the feelings of hurt and anger can be magnified. However, this is the time when your children need you to be at your most level-headed.

With Legal Aid now only available in a handful of cases, more couples are trying to resolve their differences without going to court. Whilst it may not be possible in every case, settling issues such as contact with your children without going to court can be the best way to re-start your separate lives, while maintaining as close to a family unit as you can.

Who has Parental Responsibility?

You may need to know one or two points of law before you begin discussions.

  1. Married parents have joint parental responsibility
  2. Unmarried parents - only the mother has parental responsibility (unless the father was registered as the father on the child’s birth certificate, and this occurred after 1 December 2003)

How can an unmarried father acquire Parental Responsibility?

An unmarried father can acquire Parental responsibility in any one of six ways:

  1. By being registered as the father on the child’s birth certificate with the consent of the mother (after 1 December 2003)
  2. By entering into a ‘parental responsibility agreement’ with the mother
  3. By applying to the court for a ‘parental responsibility order’
  4. By being appointed a guardian either by the mother or by the court, although in these cases he will assume parental responsibility only on the mother’s death
  5. By obtaining a child arrangements order from the court
  6. By marrying the mother

What is Parental Responsibility?

It gives the parent responsibility for making all the important decisions in a child’s life, jointly with anyone else who has parental responsibility, such as education, religion and medical care. It also enables a parent to make day-to-day decisions, for the child, such as recreation and outings.

Agreeing on What to Discuss

Before you consider discussing who is going to live with the children and where, it’s important to consider the following points, and remember that whatever is decided it must be in the best interests of the children. There will be several points to consider, including:

  • With whom the children will live and where
  • How you will ensure that the children have reasonable access to both parents
  • Who will see the children on which days
  • How time with each parent will be divided during school holidays, christmas, birthdays etc

Making a Plan and Sticking to it

In the event that an agreement can be reached, parents might want to record their decisions in the form of a Parenting Plan. This is a written agreement between parents recording how they will share the care of their children now and in the future. While a parenting plan is not a legally binding agreement, it can be a good aid to help both parents stick to what they have agreed to, and it can easily be altered if circumstances change.

However, if making a plan and sticking to it is not achievable, you might want to consider using Mediation.


This is a confidential process in which the mediator, who is impartial, meets both parents together, although, in some circumstances, may see them separately, to try and help them clarify and resolve their issues. The Mediator may give information, but will not advise the parents what terms they should agree, this being a matter for them, and the mediator may help the parents to examine different solutions encouraging parents to work together and reach an agreement that they are both happy with.

If you have any questions, please contact Jane Wheeler in our Family team on 023 9224 6714 or email

We have set out below a full list of the services our Family Department can provide whatever your circumstances. If you do however have a query which does not relate to any matter detailed below, please do contact our Family team who will endeavour to assist you.

Divorce or Civil Partnership Dissolution

Whether you are the Petitioner or the Respondent within proceedings or whether you are simply contemplating the same we can provide guidance throughout the entire process. We can assist with:

  • Drafting of documents
  • Negotiations with the other party
  • Correspondence with third parties such as the Court
  • Advice face to face, by telephone, by email.

Pre-Nuptial and Post-Nuptial Agreements

Whether you are planning to marry or indeed have now married and wish to formalise arrangements in the event of separation we can advise and assist with the following:

  • Drafting agreements
  • Negotiating settlement
  • Corresponding with all parties


Whether you are married or living together and in the event you decide to go your separate ways we can assist in formally documenting terms of separation. We can assist in the following ways:

  • Drafting Separation Agreements whether in contemplation of divorce or whether to simply record the split of a cohabiting couple
  • Negotiations with third parties
  • Providing you with advice whether face to face, by telephone or by email.


Arbitration is an alternative to resolving disputes through the Court. At Verisona Law we can assist in a number of ways either by assisting you through the Arbitration or by referring matters to our in house Arbitrator. We offer competitive arbitration rates and a member of our team will be happy to assist with any queries in this regard. Please see our current articles on Arbitration for more details about the process.

Cohabitees/living together

If you have chosen not to marry but wish to live together you may wish to formalise the arrangements and details for doing so. We can assist in the following:

  • Drafting cohabitation agreements/living together agreements
  • Negotiations with all parties
  • Advising you in person, by telephone or email as appropriate.

Divorce where Business are involved

We have extensive experience in dealing with breakdown of marriage where one or both parties are owners of businesses or indeed it may be the family business. We have experience in providing you with advice and signposting for business valuations and will ensure that the business as an asset is dealt with appropriately within any proceedings.


In addition to being able to provide specialised advice in relation to Public Sector pensions our team at Verisona Law has vast knowledge concerning all pension arrangements and can ensure that they are dealt with appropriately within any divorce proceedings. Please seek advice from a member of our team.

Parental Responsibility

We are able to advise on all aspects of Parental Responsibility including:

  • Agreements / Orders
  • Exercising your Parental Responsibility rights and duties where appropriate
  • Arising out of Parental Responsibility we can advise on applications for a Specific Issue Order to the Court if appropriate.

If you have any queries concerning Parental Responsibility and its impact on you or indeed whether you have Parental Responsibility for your children, please seek advice from a member of our team.

Assisting through Mediation

Whilst we do direct a number of matters through Mediation, this does not mean that you cannot have legal advice throughout the process. We can advise and assist you through the Mediation process and arrange thereafter to draw up formally any agreement reached be this by way of a Consent Order in divorce proceedings or simply to record in an open document the agreement you have reached at Mediation concerning the subject of your dispute.

Property Disputes

Whether you are married or otherwise, or indeed simply have an interest in a property owned by another we can provide you with advice and assistance including;

  • Applications to the Court
  • Negotiations with all parties
  • Advising and assisting you face to face, by telephone or by email.

Collaborative Law

This is an alternative way to resolve family disputes without the involvement of the Court. The Collaborative process requires both parties to have a Collaborative Lawyer and endeavours to resolve any disputes by way of four way meetings. We at Verisona Law can assist you through the Collaborative process. If this is an avenue of resolving dispute that you would be interested in, please contact a member of our team.


We at Verisona Law can provide you with advice and guidance concerning any disputes you may have relating to your child. This may be with whom the child lives, with whom the child spends time with, a specific issue concerning a child or steps that you wish to take to prevent something happening (Prohibited Steps Order). We can also advise you in relation to maintenance disputes with a third party guidance with dealing with the Child Maintenance Service. If you have a query with any issue concerning your child please contact a member of our team.

Change of Name

Please contact a member of our team if you are interested in changing your first or surname to discuss the drafting of a Change of Name Deed. We offer a fixed price for a Change of Name and we can provide you with further information upon request.

I went to Verisona Law because I had been unsatisfied with two previous attempts with other firms. Verisona gave that real sense of service, feel like a client they were happy to assist at all times and ultimately gave the BEST advice and guidance. Dont waste money; go to Verisona FIRST!

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