Don’t Forget the Kids

broken homeAs a Solicitor with many years of practice in children disputes I would say that most cases that end up in court contesting access to children arise because of a little known concept of parental alienation.

I would go as far as to say that very many Solicitors who deal with this area of law are not even aware of this concept.  This may, or may not, be the reason why non resident parents receive a letter declaring that the children no longer wish to see their parent.  What is behind this?  Could it all be the fault of the resident parent, effectively poisoning the child against their parent.  I don’t think so.

How many times, during court proceedings, do we hear resident parents saying that the other parent has made no effort with the children when we clearly in the middle of court proceedings.  Court proceedings by its very nature are a clear indication that the non resident parent is intent on making an effort in the children’s life.  So why does the resident parent become so opposed to contact taking place between the children and their parent.

I have come to believe that following the breakdown of a relationship both parents often take a casual approach to resolving issues around the children.  This means that decisions around maintaining the children financially and sharing time with the children are never really discussed.  This leads to a lot of confusion later on.

My advice would be that parents faced with separation should take a robust approach to resolving issues around children.  Just before you storm up in an upset state, stop take a deep breath, sit down explain that you will be leaving and won’t be coming back and then spend some time deciding what is going to happen about the children.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Equally, if you return home to find that your spouse has left taking the children, don’t let the dust settle before trying to solve issues around the children.  For a parent who became used to having a helping hand with the kids during the relationship, the reality of looking after the children alone can often be an unexpected shock.  So the days you take moping around licking your wounds are the same crucial days that the resident parent uses to adjust to their new single parent life.  By the time you get around to visiting your children, you may find that you are “surplus to requirements”.

Once the damage is done, it can be very difficult to undo.  By dealing with things sooner rather than later, you may be able to avoid a long drawn out dispute about the rights of you as a parent and the children to have a substantially relationship with each other.

 

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Want to use this article in your networks? You can, but you MUST include the following:

Rachel Toussaint is a Consultant Solicitor at Rogols Consultancy, Birmingham UK.  She is a human rights advocate especially as it relates to immigration, family law & civic duty.  She is also a consultant for small businesses and entrepreneurs. In her blog she shares legal tips to empower clients to quickly and effectively resolve their legal disputes. http://www.racheltoussaint.wordpress.com

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 Images courtesy of Free Digital Photos

Who’d Be An Overstayer

An “Overstayer” refers to someone who has remained in the United Kingdom beyond the expiry date of their most recent visa.  In its strictest sense it can also be used to describe someone who still has a valid visa but the reason they are in the UK has changed and they have not notified the UKBA or make a fresh application for the correct visa. The most usual example of this that we see is the student who gives up their studies well before the end of the course but remains in the UK as a full-time worker.

“Overstaying” is an immigration offence and if you find yourself in this bracket you should seek good legal advice to confirm whether there is any action you can take to regularise your status.  If not, you will have to give serious consideration to either returning to your home country, or perhaps moving onto a third country where you can fit into its immigration entry criteria.

You will be seen in a far better light if you do not overstay in the first place.  To avoid overstaying you must have a valid application in the Home Office before your most recent visa expires. However, if you find that you have overstayed then you will be seen in a far better light if you make an application voluntarily to bring yourself in line with immigration laws or alternatively, leave the country voluntarily.  You can also contact us to discuss leaving the United Kingdom voluntarily.

On the other hand it can be very difficult to get any sympathy from the UKBA in circumstances where it seems that you are only making an application to regularise your status after having been caught as an overstayer.  An example of such a scenario could be during a UKBA swoop of a workplace looking for illegal workers.  In such cases you could find yourself held in immigration detention, and ultimately removed from the United Kingdom back to your home country. 

There are different penalties which apply depending on whether you have overstayed for 28 days or more; whether you then leave the United Kingdom voluntarily and cover all the costs yourself; or whether you refuse to leave and have to be removed or deported at public expense.

The unfortunate thing is that as immigration laws become more and more stringent we will likely see a rise in the number of people who make the difficult decision to remain in the United Kingdom without permission.  Who is to blame for this?

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Want to use this article in your networks? You can, but you MUST include the following:

Rachel Toussaint is a Consultant Solicitor at Rogols Consultancy, Birmingham UK.  She is a human rights advocate especially as it relates to immigration, family law & civic duty.  She is also a consultant for small businesses and entrepreneurs. In her blog she shares legal tips to empower clients to quickly and effectively resolve their legal disputes. http://www.racheltoussaint.wordpress.com

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 Images courtesy of Free Digital Photos

Ten Top Tips to Avoid Overstaying

visa stampsWe often come across people who are still in the UK even though they do not have permission from the immigration authorities to be here.  This is a very serious breach of UK law.  On a personal level, it is not ideal as many years are wasted staying in a country where you have no rights to actively engage in society or to reach your full potential. Below we have set out ten easy to read tips that will keep you on the right track or get you back on if you’ve strayed. So: 1.     Make sure that the reason you give for entry into the UK truly represents your future plans. 2.     Ensure that you keep enough money aside to pay the UKBA application fee in case you have to stay longer in the UK. 3.     Make sure your application is prepared correctly so it is not returned.  You will not be covered whilst you correct an error if your visa has already run out. 4.     Do not get so overwhelmed that you simply let your visa expire whilst you are still in the UK. Get good advice before it runs out – even if your case seems hopeless. 5.     If the reason you are in the UK changes from the category of visa that you have, apply to change your visa to avoid overstaying &  prejudicing any future  application. 6.     Ensure that your application is sent Special Delivery to the UKBA to arrive before or on the date that your visa expires.  Beware of weekends or holidays when their offices will be closed. 7.     If you have to appeal beware of very strict time limits to lodge your appeal so as not to jeopardise your lawful stay in the UK. 8.     If you have already overstayed, get good advice about regularising your status if you wish to remain in the UK. 9.     If you plan to leave the UK and your visa has already expired, leave as soon as possible and get good advice about assistance to help with your leaving plans. 10. Remember if tempted to overstay, you could be met with detention, forced removal and a lengthy ban on making future applications to come back to the UK – So get good advice beforehand.

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Want to use this article in your networks? You can, but you MUST include the following: Rachel Toussaint is a Consultant Solicitor at Rogols Consultancy, Birmingham UK.  She is a human rights advocate especially as it relates to immigration, family law & civic duty.  She is also a consultant for small businesses and entrepreneurs. In her blog she shares legal tips to empower clients to quickly and effectively resolve their legal disputes. http://www.racheltoussaint.wordpress.com

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 Images courtesy of Free Digital Photos

How to Avoid Overstaying

This post will speak to you if you are subject to immigration rules in the UK or you know someone who is and you or someone you know no longer has permission to be here.  It is important that communities understand the impact overstaying can have on an individual both emotionally, physically and in the long – run financially.

questionI just want to take some time here to give some guidance on how not to fall into this vulnerable category.

1. Always review your current immigration status and keep abreast of changes to the rules which may affect your future immigration plans to stay in the UK.  That way you can plan for new rules that the government introduce from time to time.

2.  Put some money aside so that you can pay any costs for a future application.  Public funding is only available in limited circumstances so again if you feel you will require public funding start looking around for suitable representation ready for when you need it.

3. When seeking advice make sure that you understand everything and that it makes sense to you.  Ask questions until you are clear about what is expected of you and what the nature of your application will be.

4. Don’t get carried away with your situation so much so that you do something that is unethical or contrary to the law.

5. Ultimately, if you feel you have a valid reason to stay in the UK then explore this with a specialist immigration adviser & get clear advice on what you should be doing to help your situation.

The Implications of Overstaying are frightful.

Firstly you will be committing an immigration offence which can be dealt with purely as a criminal matter.

An Overstayer would want to be anonymous but with this means you have no valid place in the society that you have chosen to make your home.

Typically, Overstayers report that they live in sleepless fear from one day to the next.

Possibly the worst personal consequence of Overstaying is leaving oneself liable to lose of liberty through detention.  At that stage there is a real risk of being forcibly removed from the UK by the government with no choice of date or destination.

If you find yourself in this category then invest some time in yourself – Seek out good advice and take action.

 

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Want to use this article in your networks? You can, but you MUST include the following:

Rachel Toussaint is a Consultant Solicitor at Rogols Consultancy, Birmingham UK.  She is a human rights advocate especially as it relates to immigration, family law & civic duty.  She is also a consultant for small businesses and entrepreneurs. In her blog she shares legal tips to empower clients to quickly and effectively resolve their legal disputes. http://www.racheltoussaint.wordpress.com

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 Images courtesy of Free Digital Photos

Overstaying – Don’t Risk It..

british flagmapIt still remains a shame that some people came to the United Kingdom many years ago but in all this time they have not regularised there immigration status.  There are thousands of “unknowns” around us, even whole families, who are presently living in the United Kingdom without permission to do so from the UK government.  Overstaying is an offence and you leave yourself and possibly your family at risk at detention and forced removal (” deportation ” ) from the UK.

Previously, one way to obtain permission to live here, would be to show that the applicant had been in the United Kingdom continuously for 14 years – even without “papers”.  Even that was considered by most thinkers to be an extremely long time.  However, in 2012 the UK government extended this period from 14 years to 20 years.  However, in certain cases, permission to stay in the United Kingdom can be granted even if you have been here for less than 20 years and there are separate rules for children.

So if you’ve been “hiding out” for many years in the UK without permission, you should get specialist advice on your options.

Overstaying – Don’t risk it!

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Want to use this article in your networks? You can, but you MUST include the following:

Rachel Toussaint is a Consultant Solicitor at Rogols Consultancy, Birmingham UK.  She is a human rights advocate especially as it relates to immigration, family law & civic duty.  She is also a consultant for small businesses and entrepreneurs. In her blog she shares legal tips to empower clients to quickly and effectively resolve their legal disputes. http://www.racheltoussaint.wordpress.com

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 Images courtesy of Free Digital Photos

5 FAQs – Children Disputes part 2

       Faq boy This is the second post of my summer series of frequently asked questions.  I have devised the questions that I think, from experience, most people will want to know when going through the court system in children’s disputes.  Please feel free to comment below or suggest helpful tips that could benefit others.  Or to suggest a FAQ you would like me to answer in a future post.

1.      What is Cafcass?

Cafcass is an abbreviation for the Court and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (previously called the Court Welfare Officer).  The role of Cafcass in children proceedings is to safeguard the welfare of the children.  I like to express it as Cafcass effectively standing in as the child.  Cafcass will make recommendations to the court as to how they think the dispute should be settled.  The court places a lot of weight on the recommendations of the Cafcass Officer as s/he is qualified in this area and is often the only independent voice that the judge in the case has.  They have a very useful website here.

However, I think it is only fair to say that Cafcass as an organisation is very stretch, particularly in terms of time.  They on occasion have a very limited time that they can actually engage with the parents (and other significant adults) in a dispute.  So once you have put in an application, expect a telephone call from Cafcass and have some questions, comments or observations to hand that you would like to discuss with the Cafcass Officer – it may be the only chance you get to talk to them before the first hearing.

2.       How long will a court case take in children disputes?

This is an extremely difficult question.  Some people experience a quick resolution of their case once it is in court.  However, very many people speak of spending years in court trying to reach a conclusion to the dispute.  In order to minimise the length of the court proceedings, it is advisable to have a clear idea of the result you want to achieve and a solid plan of how you intend to use the courts to achieve it.

 3.       Should I apply for a Contact Order or a Residence Order?

In many cases both parents have been actively involved in the care of the children before separating.  Typically, on separating the father moves out leaving the mother with the children.  It is best to use this “re-shuffling” period to establish how you are both going to parent the children in the future.  In other words, “don’t let the dust settle”. Ordinarily, the law states that it is better if the court does not have to make an Order about a child.  However, the non resident parent may encounter obstacles from the resident parent in establishing a quality relationship with the children.  In this case, I would suggest that strong consideration be given to applying for a shared residence order.  Shared residence orders can also serve to focus the resident parent’s mind that both parents are equal in their role as a parent.

 4.       I finally got a court date to get contact with my child.  I went but nothing happened and I still can’t see my child!

This is a common feeling.  Many feel the same way.  One obvious issue with children’s proceedings is that it can be an extremely slow process as every issue in dispute has to be dealt with fully.  So even before making an application you should have a good understanding of the law, of the case law involved and a solid case plan.  Particularly, if an agreement can’t be reached due to allegations against you of any nature, you should consider pushing for a contested hearing (ie a short trial) at the earliest opportunity.  In other words, be mindful of the proceedings just becoming a series of “return dates” and directions hearings.  Otherwise, there is a big risk of you not seeing your child for many months and even years, in extreme cases with no court Order being made either way.

 5.       Do I have to have a Solicitor to go to court to get contact with my child?

 No, you are perfectly entitled to represent yourself.  However, I would strongly recommend that you instruct a Solicitor to represent you – especially if there are allegations against you of domestic violence.  For non resident parents, I would suggest you bear in mind three things when instructing a Solicitor: 1) that the Solicitor has a view on the role of both parents following separation 2) that the Solicitor specialises in this area of law 3) that the Solicitor is mindful of the amount of money you have available to spend on the proceedings from the outset and is able to produce a case plan to achieve your goals within this budget.

I wish you all the best…

Look out for further blog posts of Frequently Asked Questions every Friday, or feel free to Get in Touch for a consultation or with a FAQ suggestion that I can answer in the next blog post.

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Want to use this article in your networks? You can, but you MUST include the following:

Rachel Toussaint is a Consultant Solicitor at Rogols Consultancy, Birmingham UK.  She is a human rights advocate especially as it relates to immigration, family law & civic duty.  She is also a consultant for small businesses and entrepreneurs. In her blog she shares legal tips to empower clients to quickly and effectively resolve their legal disputes. http://www.racheltoussaint.wordpress.com

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 Images courtesy of Free Digital Photos