Our Services:  Children Issues


If you're a parent that is separating from the partner you need to put your children first. We cover children issues in Bristol, Clevedon & Portishead

Divorce or separation can be particularly difficult when you are also a parent. There are lots of things to consider when trying to make arrangements for the children between the two of you and deciding what is ‘reasonable'.

Often, more than finances and your own living arrangements, it is the future of your child that keeps you up at night. How will the separation affect them? Will you see them less often? How will they get everything they need? At Harbour Family law, we know that the wellbeing of children must always come first. We offer support and advice during discussions of child arrangements -often the most delicate and emotional set of negotiations in a separation – as well as legal representation in cases where Child Arrangement Orders are necessary. We support our clients as their family finds a way forwards together and negotiate difficulties as they adjust to their new normal.

Specialist Experts in Children Arrangements

Since Harbour Family Law was founded in 2014, we have helped hundreds of separating or divorcing couples, many of them with children.  We have three offices across the wider Bristol area and are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Every one of our accredited children’s solicitors in Bristol is a member of Resolution- a group of legal professionals dedicated to keeping family law proceedings as dignified and as low on conflict as possible. This helps to protect co-parenting relationships and reduces pressure on families and children in particular.

Our family law firm can help wider families, as well as those with parental responsibility, decide on what children’s lives will look like and how they will preserve existing relationships.

Divorce is never easy, but quick, amicable divorces arranged outside the courts can cause far less turbulence. Our law team includes several specialists in collaborative law.  Collaborative practise allows couples to reach an agreement about child arrangements themselves, with assistance from their legal teams but without the threat of litigation.

Your Initial Consultation

During your first meeting with one of our family lawyers, you will be considerately listened to.

No one knows your journey with child arrangements better than you do, so your Harbour Family Law solicitor will listen carefully before asking some questions to build a full picture of your situation and aims. Their advice will always put the wellbeing of your child at the forefront. From there, the specialist will be able to offer you advice and lay out the options you have before you. They will give you all the information you need to begin making decisions for the future of your family and will also be able to give you an estimate of the cost.

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Child Arrangements in Divorce and Separation

Parents are sometimes surprised by the number of questions that need to be answered when discussing child arrangements. The big three are where the child or children will live, how they will keep in contact with parents and family members and how their wants and needs will be paid for. However, within those are many other details that can cause difficulties in the divorce process later on if the parties discover they are not on the same page. This can include what activities the child will continue with, where they spend the holidays etc.

While a partially flexible arrangement can work for some families and details are likely to change over time, having a clear set of expectations from both parties can help to steady the transition. Where the children involved are older, their wishes must also be considered. For this reason, creating a workable agreement during the separation process is extremely important. These discussions are often difficult and emotionally charged but, with legal guidance and the child’s best interests put first, a way forward can often be found.

Parental Disputes

We often recommend mediation as a first step if parents are unable to settle all matters between themselves (It is not recommended in cases where domestic abuse is present). We prepare our clients for these meetings with good knowledge of their legal standing and advice on how to approach the process.

Mediation sessions involve both parties trying to come to an agreement in the presence of an unbiased third party who will ensure a measured and productive atmosphere, focused on the issues at hand. The mediator will also sometimes speak to any children to assess what their wishes are. If there are still matters to be discussed after mediation, our solicitors can help with further negotiations. This can be done through meetings with both parties or through correspondence. In some cases, taking part in family or individual counselling can help during this process- both in terms of giving you a clear mind for negotiations and in protecting your mental wellbeing during a stressful time. If one parent refuses to engage in the process or parties are still unable to agree, it may be necessary to begin court proceedings, including care proceedings.

''When you're dealing with emotionally driven matters that involve your children, all you want is to get the best advice that's easy to understand and gets the best outcome for everyone. Nicky came highly recommended to me for a reason - she is friendly, approachable, and 100% knows her stuff. Nicky put my mind at ease and I cannot thank her enough for that.''

Mr. G

Childen Act Proceedings

Child Arrangement Orders

There are several types of court order you can apply for concerning your children. These include:

–            A child arrangement order (Who a child lives with or has contact with)

–            A prohibited steps order (Preventing a parent from carrying out a specific activity involving the child)

–            A specific issue order (Determining a specific question concerning the child)

–            A consent order (Making an agreement settled between parents legally binding)

These can be applied for at the time of separation or later in the co-parenting relationship.

We can help you with the process of applying for an order and give you a good idea of how the court is likely to approach your case. If your application requires a hearing, we will work with your barrister to prepare your case and give you the best possible chance for a good outcome.

Resolution of Child Law Disputes with Collaborative Law

Going through court hearings is often expensive and time consuming. It can also put a strain on previously workable family and co-parenting relationships. Additionally, many parents feel more at peace with arrangements they have agreed on themselves – as this is a situation they have more control over.

There are cases where court action is necessary to protect a child or children’s wellbeing or where non-engagement from one parent limits other options.  However, we find that collaborative law can be an excellent alternative method of dispute resolution.

This is when both parents hire a lawyer trained in collaborative law (there are several experts at Harbour Family Law) and make a commitment to agreeing child arrangements themselves rather than through court proceedings. An emphasis will be put on calm, constructive negotiations about what will benefit the child most and what is practical for both parents.

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Child arrangement FAQs

  • What is a child arrangements order, and when is it necessary?

– A child arrangements order is a legal agreement that sets out where a child will live and how much time they will spend with each parent after a divorce. It is necessary when parents cannot agree on child arrangements themselves, and it is in the best interests of child protection and wellbeing to have a court make a decision.

  • How are child arrangements decided in a divorce, and what factors are considered in making this decision?

– Child arrangement (formerly known as child custody) is decided based on what is in the best interests of the child. Factors that may be considered include the child’s age, gender, health, and well-being, the parent’s ability to provide care, and the child’s relationship with each parent. This may be decided by parents out of court, or as the result of a court order.

  • Can child arrangements be changed after the divorce, and if so, how?

-Yes, care arrangements can be changed after the divorce if there is a significant change in circumstances. This can be done by either negotiating a new agreement with the other parent or by going back to court to request a modification. Child law solicitors can help with this.

Read our blog ‘Can Child Arrangements Orders be Changed?’ here .

  • What happens if parents cannot agree on child arrangements after the divorce?

-If parents cannot agree on arrangements after the divorce, they may need to go to court to have a judge make a decision. It is generally recommended to try and resolve any disputes outside of court through mediation or negotiation.

  • What is the legal process for Care Proceedings?

-If social services have concerns about a child’s welfare, they may make an application to the court, including relevant reports and statements. Those with parental responsibility will receive copies of these and may hire a solicitor.

The care plan and any issues will then be resolved over a number of hearings, aiming for all parties to reach an agreement. If social services believe children must be removed from their parents care for their safety at any point, they will ask the court for an interim care order or emergency protection order.

  • How can parents help their children adjust to the changes brought about by divorce and changes in child arrangements?

-Parents can help their children adjust to divorce and changes in child arrangements by providing reassurance, consistency, and stability. This includes keeping children informed about what is happening and why, maintaining routines and schedules as much as possible, and putting their needs first. Counselling or therapy may also be beneficial for children who are struggling to cope with the changes.

  • What will my first consultation with Harbour Family Law be like?

Read our post about this.

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