Statistics published in January 2012 show a steady rise in the number of lone parents over the past decade, reaching two million in 2011. With Christmas just around the corner and lone parents now accounting for more than a quarter of families with dependent children, agreeing what’s best for your children is vital to ensure Christmas is indeed happy. Here Helen Bradin, Partner at solicitors Bradin Trubshaw & Kirwan LLP addresses some of the typical family situations the firm advises about on a daily basis.

Q: My ex-husband has a new girlfriend and wants our children to spend Christmas with them. Can I prohibit it?

Helen: However you may feel about a new woman in your ex’s life, usually both parents have parental responsibility. That means that courts will encourage parents to agree on contact which normally includes Christmas. The courts will not prevent contact just because a former partner is in a new relationship.

Q: My partner and I have just separated. Who makes the final decision on where our children will live as we cannot agree?

Helen: The first thing to stress is that it is essential that you put your children’s needs first, especially as your own emotions may be running high. Ideally you and your ex-partner should try to co-operate and negotiate a workable arrangement. Principally though, your children can live with either/both of you but when making decisions you should consider the age of your children; their wishes and feelings especially if they are older; the potential impact of change on your children; where they go to school, their educational, physical and emotional needs; where your children’s friends and other family members live and whether there is adequate room for your children to live at either home. If you still cannot agree you can attend mediation where you both meet with a mediator to discuss the sticking points. Be aware, going to court should be a last resort – courts are very reluctant to impose a solution, so you should really try and work things out with your ex.

Q: Since our marriage collapsed my ex-wife’s been trying to prevent me from seeing our son. Can she do this?

Helen: This is clearly a distressing situation. However, the overriding view is that it is best for a child to have contact with both parents and so courts will seldom grant a court order preventing all contact with one parent. Laws have been designed to make sure parents like you cannot be cut out of their child’s life. If your wife continues to refuse to let you see your son and will not attend mediation, you can apply for a Joint Residence/Defined Contact Order. Your solicitor will be able to advise and guide you through the process.

Q: My ex is threatening to move abroad with our children. How can I stop her?

Helen: It is possible to apply for a Prohibited Steps Order to oppose the emigration of your children on several grounds including that your contact will be reduced which will impact on your relationship with your children. The court’s primary consideration will be your children’s best interests so they will review the case from all angles including whether your ex genuinely wants to move (and not simply to remove them from your life); whether refusing would affect your children’s happiness, and whether relocation is practical. An application for a Prohibited Steps Order first goes before a District Judge and a Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services Officer (CAFCASS) to try and reach an agreement. If a solution cannot be reached you, your ex and your respective solicitors, together with the CAFCASS officer, will go before the District Judge for Directions for Trial.

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For advice on family and other legal matters contact Bradin Trubshaw & Kirwan LLP on 01543 421840 for a consultation or email