Legal: resolving family disputes

PUBLISHED: 12:34 27 June 2017 | UPDATED: 12:34 27 June 2017

A range of family professionals can help smooth proceedings (photo: NLshop, Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A range of family professionals can help smooth proceedings (photo: NLshop, Getty Images/iStockphoto)


Luke Thompson, director at HRJ Foreman Laws Solicitors in Hitchin and Welwyn GC, offers advice for those facing difficult family decisions this summer

With the first official day of summer arriving on June 21, we hope to hang up our raincoats and look forward to sunny days. It’s also a favourite time for weddings and family holidays while barbecues will be firing up across the county. And with Father’s Day this month, dads will be looking forward to celebrating with their children.

Sadly, the summer period is also a common time to trigger divorce proceedings and separation. Many couples hope the extended time together during the school holidays will help to repair a troubled relationship, only to discover that the tensions remain or even worsen.

Many fathers who are facing separation or who have already separated or divorced will be saddened by their absence from the family on Father’s Day.

With all of these difficult situations, the best approach is to find a professional solicitor who understands how to constructively resolve disputes, acts with empathy and will consider the needs of the entire family, in particular the children.

The Children Act of 1989 affords the rights to children to have a meaningful relationship with both parents. Court proceedings should always be considered as a last resort, unless in the case of an emergency. The court, in making any application involving children, must decide what is in the child’s or children’s best interests. A judge will seek to find a way for this to happen and will uphold its decisions as long as it is safe to do so. In making decisions, the court must regard the child’s welfare as a paramount consideration. It must also take into account a number of factors which are as follows:

1. The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the children concerned (considered in light of the children’s ages and understanding).

2. The children’s physical, emotional and educational needs.

3. The likely effect on the children of any change in his or her circumstances.

4. The children’s age, sex, background and any other characteristics which the court considers relevant.

5. Any harm the children have suffered or are at risk of suffering.

6. How capable the children’s parents, and any other relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is at meeting the children’s needs.

7. The range of powers available to the court under the Children Act in the proceedings in question.

There is a presumption that the court should not intervene unless it is in the best interests of the children to do so. The law presently states that it is the right of the child to see the parent and not the other way round.

Naturally, most parents would prefer to come to an arrangement outside of court, but it can be challenging if negotiations are not running smoothly. Parents should 
always give consideration to engaging in mediation or a collaborative approach – working with legal and family professionals to find a mutual solution for the entire family. Qualified collaborative solicitors and mediators often work together with other family experts to resolve disputes, 
thereby avoiding the stress and expense of court proceedings. If you find yourself experiencing any of the situations highlighted here, do not hesitate to contact an experienced family solicitor.

HRJ Foreman Laws Solicitors delivers legal services for businesses, families and individuals. It has served the Hertfordshire community for centuries, tracing its roots back to 1591.

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