Contact our Family & Child Law Solicitors for an initial consultation to help Alternative & Extended family members & Grandparents. Call us 24/7 on freephone 0808 175 8000 or contact us online for a call back.
Slater and Gordon have the largest team of Family Lawyers in the UK so we fully understand that family structures take many different forms. Our Child Law Solicitors can advise on any alternative or extended family law issue; so you can make an informed decision about what's best for the children.
We offer both flexible pricing and fixed fee services for all family and child law services, and can provide immediate legal representation anywhere in England & Wales.
When parents separate, the immediate focus is almost always on how their children will divide their time between the two homes. It's usually assumed that parents act as a gateway to children having contact with the wider family; so children will see their mother’s parents and family during the time they have with their mother, and likewise with their father. But sometimes this doesn't happen for various reasons. We occasionally see what were tense adult relationships, when parents were together fracturing on separation; and one parent trying to prevent children spending time with the other’s family.
This can result in grandparents and other family members being excluded from children’s lives and/or losing contact altogether. Many grandparents are unsure what they can do when prevented from seeing their grandchildren, and what the legal position is. There is no presumption in Child Law that grandparents are entitled to have contact with their grandchildren. However, Courts still recognise that grandparents often have an important and positive role to play in children’s lives. Contact with grandparents will generally be promoted.
If contact between a grandparent and grandchildren cannot be agreed, the grandparent may make an application for a Contact Order. Most grandparents will first have to apply for leave to issue the application, as they will not be able to ask for Section 8 Order as of right. If permission is given, the Court will consider whether the contact requested is in the child’s best interests, in the same way as any other Section 8 Order / Contact Orders. The Court will take into account the matters set out in the welfare checklist when reaching its conclusion.
When parents struggle, often grandparents are the first line of help and support. Sometimes this can be for a short period only, other times it may be a more prolonged arrangement. Recent statistics showed that grandparents in the UK, and particularly in England, were more involved than most throughout Europe in providing care for their grandchildren.
If a grandparent is to have care of a grandchild for any length of time, it is advisable for the arrangement to be formally recognised. This might be through a Residence Order or a Special Guardianship Order. These Orders would give the grandparent additional legal rights, such as Parental Responsibility. Such Orders do not always have to be contested. They can be made by consent if the adults involved agree on a course of action.
It's important to evaluate all the circumstances of the child’s situation, to identify whether an Order is advisable, which is the most suitable, and how best to obtain it. There are also various support services specialising in helping grandparents and other extended family members caring for children, which can offer advice and practical support.
Although there has never been a truly 'typical family', until recently the model we came across the most was a mother and a father with one or two children.
This model has become progressively less representative over the last decade or two, and the range of families is truly astonishing. Where society goes, the law follows. Our legal system is still struggling to catch up with the different forms that families now take, and to make sure that the rights and responsibilities within those families are defined and protected.
The umbrella term 'Alternative Families' applies to a wide range of situations, but is used most often to describe LGBT families. There are special considerations that apply to LGBT families that apply less frequently to other alternative family models. Marriage equality is not yet available in this country. Until it is, Civil Partnerships offer a legally recognised union for same sex couples.
A Civil Partnership attracts all the same rights and responsibilities of marriage, so it's important to consider the financial repercussions. We can advise you whether a Pre-Civil Partnership Agreement, the equivalent of a Prenuptial Agreement, would be appropriate for you. If it is, we can draft a Pre-Civil Partnership Agreement tailored to your requirements.
In the event of your Civil Partnership breakdown, we can guide you through the dissolution process. Separation is never painless, but can be less painful and distressing with proper support, guidance and expert legal advice. We can also advise on what is an appropriate financial settlement.
As Resolution Solicitors we advocate a constructive approach to resolving family law issues. Few families require legal advisers who rush to Court and generally approach matters in a confrontational and aggressive way. The same or better outcomes can often be achieved by sensible but robust negotiation; with the added benefit that family relationships are not irreparably damaged by the process.
Where Court proceedings are necessary to protect our clients’ interests, we litigate pragmatically and proactively, never losing sight of your litigation objectives.
One option increasingly used by lesbian couples or single women to start a family is to use a donor to become pregnant. The donor might be unknown, perhaps through a licensed clinic, or from a known individual.
Known donors are often trusted friends. Where a known donor is used, it's important that the intentions and expectations of everyone involved are set out. It really does not matter how close the friendship between those involved is, or how much they trust one another to make the right decisions for the child that will be born. Human emotions are powerful and inconstant. What the adults look forward to before undertaking the journey through conception, birth and the first experience of parenting may change radically.
Donor & pre-conception agreements are not enforceable like contracts. However, they are extremely useful as proof of agreements reached and adult intentions, should a dispute about the child come before the Court. Also, by addressing in advance some of the practical detail of what they intend once the child is born, parents can at least limit misunderstandings afterwards and, hopefully, avoid disagreements.
The Solicitors in our specialist Child Law team represented the father in the seminal Alternative Families case of A -v- B and C prior to joining Slater and Gordon Lawyers. He continues to instruct the same Solicitor in his quest for contact with his son. So, we are acutely aware of the sensitivities and issues that arise in families like these.
Looking beyond pre-conception agreements, alternative families are affected by all the same issues where children are concerned as families that follow the more traditional model.
Where disputes arise about parenting issues in alternative families, they are resolved in the same way as any other Section 8 Order. Resources that help separating parents are equally applicable in an alternative family setting. Alternative families are just as likely to need expert legal advice and guidance on questions of Parental Responsibility, Relocation and Financial Provision for Children. Questions about surrogacy and adoption are quite common from alternative families; and we'll be happy to help answer any questions you may have.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers is one of the UK's largest and well known law firms with offices in London, Manchester, Watford, Liverpool, Chester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Preston, Wakefield and Wrexham.