Immigration law achieves equality – at last

CofAIt has been an elephant in the room.

The law that a child born in the United Kingdom could be deported from his birthplace simply because the parents were not married.

If the Immigration Act 2014 is to be considered harsh, it has definitely revealed a soft spot in repealing the law that a child born in the United Kingdom before 2006 could only obtain British citizenship through a British mother if the parents were not married.

Prior to 2006 a child could only obtain British citizenship through his British father if the parents were married.

The law changed on 1 July 2006 and children born in the United Kingdom after this date could obtain British citizenship through either British parent – even if they were not married.  The problem being that the law was not retrospective so children of British fathers faced deportation along with their foreign national mothers.

The new law is set to come into force on 6 April 2015.  This means that many children who may already have been removed from the United Kingdom should be reviewing their UK immigration status.

Watch this space to see how this all unfolds in the coming months..

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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.  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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Schools back – Children disputes

back-to-schoolWith the return of the new academic year many children will start school with parents who are still at loggerheads over a recent separation.

At this time it is so important for the parents to commit to working together so that the child’s school year starts smoothly.  However, this won’t always be possible and for the non-resident parent it can be so difficult to exercise your parental rights.

Here are 5 tips that you may find useful in ensuring that you are fully engaged in your child’s education.

1) Your child’s school should always be told if there is some upheaval in the child’s family life.  Try to have a discreet word with your child’s teacher about the change in circumstances.

2) Check whether you have parental responsibility for your child.  If you do, provide evidence of this to the headteacher and ask that all teachers who come into contact with your child are aware that you have parental responsibility.  If not then seek legal advice on how to get parental responsibility.

3) Make sure that the school has your up to date contact details.  Many schools use  a text messaging service.  Ask if your child’s school uses this and make sure they have your mobile number – this way letters to you won’t get “lost in the post”.

4) Continue (or start!) to help your child with homework and extra curricular activities.  Many children often complain of boredom when visiting the non-resident parent.  Try to make your child’s life carry on as usual even when they are with you.  Remember, when your child is with you, you need to be mum and dad.

and finally..

5) Be empowered …Have confidence in your new role as a single parent.  Children often sense when parents are unsure (I know mine can).  Let your child know (or belief) that you are in control and you know exactly how to be mum and dad – at the same time.

Good Luck!

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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

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

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

5 FAQs – Children Disputes

Faq boyThis is the first in my summer series of Frequently Asked Questions that I will be addressing around children disputes.  Hopefully, this will go someway in unravelling the issues that many parents face regarding their children following a separation.

o       My wife has left me and taken the kids, I’ve no idea where they are!

If this happens, you can go to court and make an application called Disclosure of the Whereabouts of a Child.  In this application you will be asking a named body to provide an address for the child or for your wife.  For example, HMRC or the Benefits Agency is likely to have up to date contact information for anyone claiming a benefit, working or self-employed.  So, you could start there.

o       My husband just called to say that he is emigrating with the kids!

This is a very scary situation to be in because once you’re children have left the UK it is virtually impossible to enforce a UK court order.  You need to take urgent action.  An application can be made to the court for a Prohibited Steps Order.  You will then need to send copies of this Order to all ports out of the country (airports, seaports etc).  If your husband has already left then you will have to take action within the country he is now in.  In either case you should seek specialist advice to avoid life-changing delays in taking action.

o       My child has been staying with me and now says he doesn’t want to go back to his mum’s.  Do I have to force him?

This is a difficult question and depends on the particular circumstances.  I would say that both parents need to co-operate in this type of situation. Children often don’t mind whether they live with mum or dad so once they feel settled somewhere they may feel too relaxed to move again.  Understand why the child doesn’t want to go home.  Does he just want to enjoy one more night at your home? or does he have a fear of returning home? Different problems call for different solutions.  If the child just wants to spend one more night at yours then ask mum if that will be okay.  But if the child has a fear of returning home then you will need to assess whether there is real danger or is it just a question of not liking the method of discipline at home? If there is a genuine risk of harm you should discuss this with the other parent.  If an agreement cannot be reached then you should refer the matter to court urgently or the other parent could do this without you knowing and without giving the court the full picture.

yellow school signo       My girlfriend has told the headteacher not to let me near my child at school. What can I do about it?

Once a relationship breaks down it is common for one side to set about forming a band of supporters.  Among this can be getting the school headteacher on side.  It is best to take swift action to stop this becoming a major obstacle to you contributing in your child’s school life.  But at the same time I would suggest gentle action.  So you need to understand exactly what your rights are and, if court proceedings have started, what Orders have been made.  Often fathers don’t realise that they have parental responsibility and are therefore perfectly entitled to engage in their child’s education.  Also, although court proceedings have started and are well underway often, no court Orders have actually been made in favour of father or mother.  So make sure you know what you need to know so you can lawfully assert your rights at every step.

o       My wife and I have just separated and she won’t let me see the kids.  What can I do?

It’s no surprise that by the time a couple has separated, feelings are running high and bitterness has set in.  Typically, the husband moves out of the house and leaves the mother alone with the children.  No clear plans have been put in place regarding the children and the mother is left to just get on with it.  I would say this is a crucial time to maintain the status quo as regards the children.  If you usually do the school run, or some of it, then continue to do so; if you usually help with out of school activities, either by watching the other children at home or with the driving to and fro, then find a way to continue helping with this.  Remember also, how expensive it can be bringing up children.  So try not to just cut off any financial contribution you were making when you were living together.  Obviously, you will now have your own separate expenses but try to remember all the little things that add up.  It’s the extra things like paying for school days out, endless non-uniforms days, unexpectedly having to replace lost clothes and even shoes!  So try not to stop helping with all this without discussing it first.  This is not legal stuff, it’s just tips to set the foundation to build your future “two families” lifestyle.

So you will be taking this time immediately after separating to establish that you will be parenting the children together.  During this period, you should also be discussing long-term arrangements for you to see the children.

If this cannot be agreed then you may need to use a third person to help with your discussions.  You might find that it is impossible to find someone who is objective enough or who has the skills to help you resolve the issues between you.  You can look then to getting professional help from a relationship counselor or a Mediator.  You should, hopefully, be able to arrive at an understanding that you can both live with and which suit the needs of your children.  However, you can only ask the other parent to attend Mediation but s/he is not obligated to do so.

If you’ve worked your way through the above process but still have not been able to see your children then, as a last resort, you should refer the matter to court.  You will be asking the court to make an Order that you can see your children.  This Order will set out the minimum amount of time that you should spend with your children.  Going to court may be your only option but it is not one than should be taken likely.  Children disputes at court are extremely stressful, very expensive and can create permanent bitterness between the parents and even wider family members.

If you do decide to go down this route then you should get your application into court quickly to avoid delay.  If there is a long delay in you seeing your children then the court can be persuaded to conclude that the children no longer remember you.  If contact is agreed or Ordered in such circumstances it is likely to be set at a Contact Centre.  Contact Centres are public places designed to help estranged parents re-establish their relationship with their children.  Parents report that it feels like an artificial setting and it is a difficult way to interact with children of any age in such an environment.

So from the outset, if representing yourself, you will need to have a working knowledge of the court system and have a good case plan laid out so that you can keep your case moving forward.

Well, that’s it for this week.

Look out for further blog posts of Frequently Asked Questions every Friday, or feel free to Get in Touch  to arrange 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

From Shared Parenting to Parental Alienation

There are many ways to describe what is commonly known as shared parenting but essentially it is an agreement between the parents that they will exercise their parental responsibility over their child equally.

 It is widely accepted that shared parenting should be the norm unless there is a good reason why not.

 silhoutte familySo, ideally, then both parents will have an equal input in the child’s life.  One way that this can be reflected is in the actual behaviour of the parents.  Are they able to have a civil discussion about the child? Do they both participate in the school run and in attending school events?  Are the children able to visit the non-resident parent as often as they wish? Do the children have significant contact with the extended family members of the non-resident parent?

 If you can answer yes to all these questions and more like them then you have probably achieved shared parenting – and well done!

 If these questions are a long way off from what your child experiences then you should think about how you could enhance your roles as parents.

 Shared Parenting should come naturally to you as parents and, in my view, is far more favourable then what we, as Solicitors, often see – being parents arguing in court and then coming out with an Order that is neither flexible nor agreed.

 The reality is that even parents who live together do not spend equal time with their child so it will be totally unrealistic to expect this once a relationship has broken down.  However, in such instances parents may want to satisfy themselves that they both have equal quality contact with their child and one parent should not try to appear more important than the other.

A formal way to reflect a shared parenting agreement is to apply to the court for a Shared Residence Order.  Now, under the law, the court should not make an Order for a child unless it is absolutely necessary.  This reflects the presumption of what is known as “the No Order principle”.  So unless you’ve had problems in the past or seriously envisage problems in the future the court may not grant a Shared Residence Order, or any Order at all.

 A Shared Residence Order doesn’t mean that the children will spend equal time with both parents.  I would say that this is not in the best interest of the children – moving backwards and forwards between houses.  However, a Shared Residence Order often serves to remind both parents that they essentially have equal rights and responsibilities over their children.

 The concept of Shared Parenting should be the norm for the relationship that children have with their parents after separation.  Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case and many parents and children become separated due to the actions of the parent that the child lives with (the resident parent).  Often the resident parent makes claims of domestic violence or child abuse as a way of stopping the contact between the child and the other parent.  Sometimes, the only option the parent has is to refer the matter to court.  However, the courts’ hands are often tied during the process of investigating the allegations made and no contact takes place in the meantime.

 So what can you do to minimise the effect of this during court proceedings?

   father kissing daughter

  1. Firstly, make sure to control your emotions.  Minimise the amount of contact and conversation that you have with the resident parent.  Otherwise, you put yourself in a vulnerable position against further allegations and even the possibility of Non-Molestation (Injunction) proceedings.
  2. You will need to avoid delay and keep the case moving.  Think about instructing a Solicitor or other professional representative who can act as a buffer between having direct contact and give you specialist advice.
  3. Gather any evidence (or lack of it) that can be used against you.  So use your rights under Data Protection laws to obtain any information held about you by, for example, by the police or the Local Authority Children’s Services.  If no such information is held, you’ll want that in writing also.
  4. Gather written evidence of any activities you have been engaged in with your children, for example a letter from the school that you attend school events, from out of school clubs, from a leader in your church (if you go) etc.  You may need to use these documents throughout the proceedings at short notice – so it’s just as well to get everything together beforehand.

Remember, that delay is the enemy in children disputes.  The more time that passes since seeing your children, the more difficult it becomes to re-instate contact with them.  So, once you are clear that your case cannot be resolved amicably, the quicker you put it together and get it before the court the better.

I talk about avoiding court proceedings altogether here.

In a future post I will talk about using a Contact Centre if you are already going through parental alienation and need to re-instate contact as soon as possible.

                                    

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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

Representing Yourself in Children’s Court

One thing that gives me a sinking feeling is when I get instructions from a parent struggling to see their children.  I almost never agree that it is proper to prevent one parent from seeing their children after a relationship has broken down.

If the dispute goes to court it becomes an expensive way to eat into your savings.  Savings that could be better spent on the financial needs of the children.  Often times, to avoid the costs of paying a lawyer, many parents decide to represent themselves at court.  This is very daunting as many people have never been to court before  much less for an emotive issue such as seeing their child.

It is, in my view, advisable to get professional representation when dealing with the court system.  However, for those who can’t afford it, I just wanted to highlight that good manners are very important when representing yourself in children proceedings – second only, I’d say, to a solid understanding of the law involved.

In a previous post I gave some tips on how to avoid court proceedings altogether.  You can find that post here.  If, however, you have no option but to go to court by yourself, you might want to bear the following 4 points in mind:

1) Don’t Involve the Children

The court takes a dim view when adults involve the child in the dispute between parents.  So that means; No name-calling, No searching questions; and No snide remarks about the other parent.   If possible, try to avoid talking to your child about the other parent.  It may help to work on set phrases that you can easily roll out if your child has any questions about the effects of your separation on their relationship with you.

2) No Multimedia

Many parents come to my office with some sort of pre-recorded evidence that they wish to show the judge.  In my experience, judges do not look at mobile phone footage during a court hearing.  If you absolutely wish to get your footage shown then think about taking a snap-shot of the most relevant part.  If you attach it as a photograph to a statement explaining what it is then you may have more luck with introducing it into the case.

3) Ask permission

In children’s court most actions cannot be taken without the court’s permission.  So you usually cannot just send in Statements or more evidence without asking the judge first.  Often, sending the information to court with a covering letter asking permission to use it may be enough.  I know – the judge will already have seen it at the time you ask – but that’s just the way it works.  If the judge says no, just take it on the chin and think of another way to get your point across.  In child proceedings the judge that starts the case usually tries to keep it in his/her caseload – this helps with continuity.  So try to build a rapport with the judge as best you can and make a note of how s/he thinks as this will help you to plan the case going forward.

4) Silence is Golden

It can be very frustrating when representing yourself in court.  Please bear in mind, however, that you are not allowed to discuss children cases with all and sundry.  In fact, there can be serious legal consequences if you discuss the case with someone who is not involved in the case.  Remember point (2) above.  Imagine your ex coming to court waving a snap-shot of your facebook page where you’re giving a no-holes barred update of the goings on in your case.  Not nice.  So get professional help if you need to – and there are many free organisations out there – but try to keep a lid on your emotions.  It will serve you better in the long-run.

Good Luck!

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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 Court in Children Disputes

As we all know court proceedings can be very costly and in some cases there is no way of avoiding this.

However, before going to court it may just be worth your while seeing whether you can resolve the dispute without going to court.  Try out my three suggestions below:

 1.      Write a letter to the other parent asking them to agree that you should be having contact with your child.  The letter should be simple but specific.  So avoid making any snide remarks and make sure that you set out the specific times you want to see your child.  It may seem a little robotic but by doing it this way you are bringing some certainty into the equation. Give them a reasonable time to respond so you could end the letter by saying that you must hear from them within 14 days.

If the time limit has passed then send them a second letter.  This time consider sending the letter via recorded delivery so that you can have proof the letter has been signed for and collected – or not as the case may be.

If you still get no reply you can approach a Solicitor to write a letter to the other parent.  This shouldn’t be too costly but it will make the correspondence more formal.  Usually a “Solicitors letter” will cause the other parent to respond.  If the other parent does not respond then you will know that you are likely to have a long and complicated dispute.

The Solicitors letter would usually end with a request for a response within a specific time, alternatively, court action will be started.

 2.        Ask a mutual friend to help you both in discussing any obstacles which are preventing contact being agreed.  Often, certain left over bitterness from the relationship can affect the future relationship of the parents.  This can mean that the children suffer as a result by being forced to live between feuding adults and being alienated from the parent they no longer live with.

Mutual friends are often best place, because they know both of you and the children, to step in and help iron out any disputes.

With this method, however, don’t feel forced to use a friend who shows any sign of bias as one or the other of you is likely to feel uncomfortable with the decision reached and it is therefore less likely to last.

A mutual friend can also be an upstanding member of the community who is known to the family.  For example, a religious leader, community leader, a friend with a relevant professional qualification.

Don’t let these discussions drag on indefinitely.  If you aren’t able to agree something concrete by the second meeting then this method is probably not going to work.

 3.    Use a professional mediator or relationship counselor  If parents are really serious about moving things forward in an acceptable way and doing what is best for their child they will know that avoiding delay and court proceedings is crucial.

So if things can’t be resolved informally then the next best way is to use an external person who is specifically trained to help families dealing with the consequences of a relationship breakdown.

If you have gone to see a Solicitor before using a mediator or relationship counselor you can still ask the Solicitor to refer you to mediation.  The mediator can then take over the case to help you both come to an understanding on future contact.  The Solicitor can then help to formalize this understanding so as to avoid problems in the future. Relationship counselling

So there you have it, try out these suggestions above before rushing off to court – it will be less expensive and help you get on better as parents in the future. And for the resident parent you might just get a regular willing babysitter – for free!

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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

 

Three Top Tips for a Stress – Free Divorce

One thing that I have never been able to get used to in my years of practice as a Solicitor dealing with family disputes, is the dynamics involved when a relationship breaks down.

I recall the first time I completed a divorce and telling the client that I was sorry to tell them that the divorce had been finalized.  This client (who was the petitioner, ie the one who applied for the divorce) gave out a cry of happiness.  I was stunned – how could this be? What was so good about getting a divorce.

What I later realised, however, is that we all make mistakes.  And sometimes, we mistakenly marry the wrong person.  If that happens…a divorce is inevitable.  In the UK, typically, one in three marriages end in divorce, and of these many involve families with children.

At the end of the day if two people (or sometimes one person) decides their marriage is a mistake then ending the marriage may be the only way forward.

breaking up couples

So, although I despair when I  hear that a marriage has ended in a divorce, I have set out below three things couples need to do to make sure that their divorce is as stress free as possible…after all, in family breakdowns there really are no winners..

  1. Make a decision that you are going to have a stress free divorce.  It’s a common fact that in order for something to be someone has to make a decision.  This is no different with a divorce.  You need to make a promise to yourself that no matter what happens you will keep a cool head – not easy, but it really is rule number one.  So send a message out to the universe that you are going to stay calm.
  2. Agree with your spouse the reason that you are divorcing.  In the UK there are five reasons you can get  a divorce which, in no particular order, are 1) You have been separated for five years, 2) You have been separated for 2 years and you both agree to the divorce. 3) Your spouse has behaved so unreasonably that you can no longer stay married 4) Your spouse has committed adultery 5) Your spouse has disserted you for at least two years.  Any one of these reasons can be used to prove that your marriage has irretrievably broken down.

Now imagine you decide not to agree or discuss the reason for the divorce.  You send divorce papers based on behaviour, filled with all the bad things your spouse has every put you through, or you send them papers accusing them of adultery, or asking your spouse to pay your legal costs.  Do you think your spouse would co-operate? Would this be a good way to ensure a peaceful relationship in the future.  Probably not.  So trying to reach an agreement, as much as possible, in your personal circumstances can be crucial for a stress-free divorce.

  1.  Put the children first.  One thing that can rarely be doubted is that even though a couple have decided to get a  divorce, they do both still love their children.  However, the bitterness and animosity that each holds against the  other can sometimes spill over and affect the decisions they make about the children.

So, for example, the parent who has kept the children will prevent the other parent from seeing them or, the “non-resident” parent may refuse to provide financial support for the benefit of the children.  Sometimes, on the basis that the other parent will spend the money on themselves.  In my mind that is a moot point because that parent will still have to meet the day to day expenses for the children. So there really is no reason for one parent to withhold financial support from another parent just for the sake of it.

Equally, I feel very strongly that children don’t really care about the bad feelings between their parents.  In all likelihood they would be used to this as they would have seen their parents arguing or not even speaking to each other at all prior to the separation.  In my view, children will feel it is important to maintain a relationship with both parents where both parents have been loving towards them.  As a Solicitor who has dealt in many family disputes over the years, I have seen all too often previously married couples at court not speaking to each other giving, frivolous really, arguments about why one or the other parent shouldn’t see the children.  I’m not talking here about proven cases where domestic violence is involved , but cases where the only real issue is that the relationship has broken down.

In my mind, if both parents can be guided by what is best for the future of the children, this will go some way in ensuring that the divorce process runs smoothly – because you will be taking your focus off the things you don’t agree on and focusing on the one thing you do agree on – the happiness of your children.

 So there you have it.  What I believe are three tips that can take you on the path to a stress-free divorce.

 And if you are really struggling to resolve your issues during divorce then you might want to try relationship counseling.  Many relationship counselors also provide families who are breaking up with support to overcome their differences and make decisions that you can both live with.

Good Luck…!

What about you? What top tips to a stress-free divorce can you suggest.  Feel free to share your thoughts below.

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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 for Choosing the Right School for Your Child

As a parent who is also working or in business, you can often overlook the very important issue of choosing a suitable school for your child.  This is not because you don’t care or don’t understand the importance of a good education.  It is simply because you are time poor and just trying to cram everything in.  So you think you have done the groundwork to choose the right school for your child but certain important factors may slip under the radar.

Outside of sending your child to a school which has bad teaching, a lack of equipment and the like, I believe all parents would be devastated to know that they are sending their child into an environment where they are mistreated, mocked or even physically bullied on a daily basis.

As a parent you want to know that a solid education, coupled with discipline and safety, are at the heart of the school’s ethos.

To help in your quest, I’ve set out below what I think could help busy parents get it right first time.

1. If at all possible try to live in an area which is well known for its “good schools“.  You will need to know the “school catchment area”.  The “school catchment area” is the area around the school that you must live in to be able to attend that school as a first choice.  This is significant for the “good/outstanding schools” as these catchment areas are usually full of families with school aged children.  So if you are outside the catchment area of your preferred school you are unlikely to get a look in.  The catchment area could be smaller than you think so check with the school first.

2. Have a look on the school website.  Check that the website is updated regularly; that it offers children the opportunity to do extra work online; that the headteacher is involved in the running of the website – a nice smiling face with a “word from the head” is a good sign; and that an informative school newsletter is sent out regularly.

3. Observe the school playground.  Stand a safe distance from the school so as not to cause alarm and if appropriate let a school official know what you are doing.  Look for such things as: how well the children are supervised during breaktime; how the children interact with each other; obvious signs of bullying.  I know you’re busy, but try to do this a few times at different times of the day – it may save you many trips to the school later on.

4. Take your child to see the school with you before you make a decision.  It’s a lot easier for a child to settle into a new school if they have been there previously and had some input in the decision.

5. Forget trying to charm the school receptionist.  The decision of placing a child in a school has been removed from the school and is now the duty of the local authority. The local authority does this through their admissions and appeals department.

6. Work closely with the Schools Admissions & Appeals service.  The Schools Admissions & Appeals department can tell you which schools have spaces now or how long the waiting list is.  You can use this service to decide whether now is the right time to change your child’s school especially if you have just moved home or are thinking of moving.

7. Find out who the school governors are.  School governors effectively make key decisions about the school.  They appoint teachers, decide how the school budget will be spent, agree school policies and act as a “critical friend” to the school.  Look at the backgrounds of the governors.  Do they seem to have a varied past and experiences?  What, if anything, do they stand for? How accessible are they?  You should be able to get this information from the school website.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

8. Look at the school Ofsted Report.  This can be found on the internet and is accessible to everyone.   Most parents judge the school entirely on the basis of the Ofsted report.  But this should not be the only tool that parents use when making a decision about the school.  I’ve put this at number 8 to emphasis that I really don’t believe this is the most important factor.  Having said that, the Ofsted report gives a good indication, not only on the current progress the school is making, but it also looks at how likely the school is to improve in the future.  The Ofsted report also has a section that discusses the effectiveness of the governors and the leadership of the school in general – which is very helpful.  This will help you to understand the politics of the school and just how well the school will be able to deal with issues as they arise.  By issues I mean problems that young children struggle with.  In my mind, chief among young children’s struggles is around bullying.  Ultimately, you want to know that if all else fails, your child is at least safe whilst at school.

So it is very important to understand the effectiveness of the school leadership as this may have a direct impact on how the school is able to handle the issues that children are likely to face.

9. Talk to other parents at the school.  Most parents will be happy to share their first hand experience of having a child at that school.  Try to speak to a few parents not just one or two.  Visit the local coffee shop on a warm day straight after school starts.  You’re bound to find lots of mums there relaxing before they start their own day.  They’ll be in a social mood – so go on approach them.

10. Attend the school fair.  Here you can see how all the elements of the school come together.  You will see how the teachers, children, parents and community interact with each other. Everyone’s guard is down and this can give a really helpful insight before making that final decision.

So there you have it, my top ten tips for choosing the right school for your child.  I have four children in four different schools so I decided to work it all out for other parents.

It’s worth mentioning that not all parents (and children) get a place at their preferred school.  If you’re not happy with the school your child is offered you have a legal right to appeal.  You also have the right to educate your child at home, without them going to a school at all.  You can either start the process yourself or get help from a Solicitor.

Well good luck with it all.  Here’s to your child’s happiness…and your peace of mind!

Oh & do feel free to add your own top tips below…

                    

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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