Legal Child Arrangements

We know that navigating a divorce or separation, especially with children involved, brings with it many concerns and worries.

child legal arrangements
Claire Christie - Legal Director of Family Law

Claire Christie

Head of Family Law


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Garden Stirling Burnet Staff

Rebecca Duncan

Business Support Administrator


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Garden Stirling Burnet Staff

Sophie Greig



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Garden Stirling Burnet Staff

Lesley Holburn

Secretary/Legal Executive


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Whilst your relationship has ended, it is critical to reach a resolution in which their needs are prioritised, and personal feelings are set aside.

At Garden Stirling Burnet, our expert support, advice, and compassionate approach will ensure the best legal child arrangement for you, your spouse, and your children.

During this distressing time, we can also assist you through our network of family consultants, therapists, mediators, and child psychologists.

Child Contact/Access

Often the most important decision when it comes to a cohabitating couple separating, a civil partnership dissolution, or a divorce relates to where and when children will spend time with each parent.

Regardless of your living situation, maintaining contact with your child/children is one of the most critical aspects of your relationship. We recognise and sympathise with the importance of getting this right.

In understanding that there is no “one size fits all” arrangement, our guidance is tailored to your individual circumstances and most importantly, what is best for your child or children.

If you and the other parent have Parental Rights and Responsibilities but differ in your views as to what is best, then we are here to assist in facilitating and agreeing upon a Minute of Agreement.

Other avenues for resolving separation disputes may be mediation or collaboration, with court action always the last resort. If matters cannot be agreed upon, a Contact Order can be sought from the court setting out the times and dates that the child/children will spend time with the parent they do not live with.

Both a Minute of Agreement and a Contact Order can include a mix of direct and indirect contact that align with a child’s evolving interests. This can include:

  • direct (spending time with your child)
  • indirect (letters, phone, and video calls)
  • residential (overnight)
  • non-residential (daytime contact)
  • Supervised (someone else is present)
  • Unsupervised (just you and your child)
  • Weekly, fortnightly, school holidays only (if you or your child resides abroad)

Contact is all about maintaining a relationship with a child under 16.

Child Residence

More and more separated parents are choosing the arrangement of “shared care” involving children not having one fixed residence but spending equal (or roughly equal) time with both parents. However, for some individuals experiencing separation and divorce, issues can arise around the living arrangements for children under the age of 16.

If you have full parental rights and responsibilities, you have the right to either:-

  1. Have the child live with you; or
  2. Regulate the child’s residence

It is possible to come to an agreement directly, in which children residing with one parent have regular contact with the other parent. This can be recorded in a Minute of Agreement.

Lawyers, mediators, and the courts may become involved if disputes arise or parents disagree. In some instances, a “residence order” can be sought from the court ordering where the child shall live and with whom based upon their best interests.

Where parents live in different countries, arrangements can be made for a term time and/or holiday residence.

Who can apply for a residence or contact order?  

Anyone who has an interest in the welfare of a child can apply for a residence order. This might be grandparents, step-parents, and other family members. Orders can also be sought by non-relatives if they are able to demonstrate a close connection to the child.

The court will always take the child’s interests into account before reaching a decision and will consider their views where appropriate.

A child aged 12 or older is deemed to be mature enough to express a view on matters of importance affecting their welfare. The views of a child under 12 can also be considered by the court if they wish to express them.

What are my parental rights and responsibilities?

Under the law, Parental Rights and Responsibilities (PRRs) are those which arise from being a parent.

The most important PRRs that we often assist with are contact and residence.

There are other critical PRRs involving the safeguarding and promotion of a child’s health, development, and welfare, along with providing guidance and direction.

These rights and responsibilities continue until a child reaches 16, except the right to provide guidance, which continues until the age of 18.

The court also has the power to remove PRRs if it is deemed to be in the best interests of a child.

Who has PRRs?

  • A child’s mother
  • A child’s father if he was married to the mother at the time of conception onwards
  • A child’s father if he is registered on the birth certificate after 4 May 2006

How do I get PRRs if I don’t have them automatically?

We can assist unmarried fathers, grandparents, step-parents, other family members, or those who have an interest in the welfare of a child to apply for PRRs. You do not need to be related to a child to apply.

Unmarried fathers can be granted PRRs by entering into a legally binding agreement with the child’s mother known as a Section 4 Parental Rights and Responsibilities Agreement. We recommend taking advice before entering into such an agreement.

Applying for PRRs involves an application to the court, which will consider the welfare of the child and what is in the child’s best interests before making a decision.

What should I do if someone is trying to remove my PRRs?

If a court action has been raised to remove your PRRs, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible. We are highly experienced and can advise and represent you in court.

International Relocation Involving Children

When both parties have parental rights in relation to a child under 16 then neither should remove a child from the United Kingdom without the others’ permission unless a prior agreement is in place.

If one party removes a child to a Hague Convention country without the other parents’ agreement, then we can immediately follow the court protocol to attempt to have the child returned.  This is known as wrongful removal or international child abduction.

Where there is prior knowledge of a planned removal without the agreement of the other party, then we can immediately go to court for an interdict preventing this and obtain any other orders necessary.

Should you wish to relocate with a child, it is imperative that you seek family law advice and try to negotiate and openly communicate with the other parent about maintaining contact.

In situations where the other parent does not agree, obtaining court approval to relocate is necessary, and our expert legal guidance will ensure that there is a clear understanding of the processes involved.

Let Garden Stirling Burnet help you with all child-related legal matters

Divorce or separation is overwhelming whether you have children or not. For those of you who do, it can be even more emotionally challenging and stressful.

At Garden Stirling Burnet we realise this and are committed to providing expert advice, support, and a compassionate approach to ensure the best outcomes for you and your children. For a confidential chat, contact us today.

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