Divorce and separation can be very difficult for children. That is why it is so important to make proper arrangements for your children as soon as possible, so that they can adjust to the new situation more easily. Your solicitor has considerable practical and legal experience in this area, so they can help you with issues including:
- Child custody (also known as residence)
- Access to your children (contact)
- Financial support, including maintenance, school fees and housing
- Permission to relocate a child
- Grandparents’ rights
Mediation or negotiation are always preferable ways of making child arrangements following divorce, but if this is not possible, your solicitor will help you to settle your dispute in court.
Child maintenance solicitors
Parents have a legal responsibility to maintain dependent children. If you and your former partner cannot agree upon maintenance, you can apply to either the District Court, or Circuit Court (or, in exceptional circumstances,the High Court) for a court order. Maintenance can be awarded for the benefit of a dependent child who is under 18, or 23 if the child is in full-time education. If the child is over 18 and under 23 and financial circumstances mean further education is not possible, maintenance can be sought to facilitate further education. If the child has a mental or physical disability that means they will never be able to maintain themself fully, there is no age limit for seeking maintenance for their support.
Each parent must reveal their finances to the court, and the judge will look at all of the family's circumstances when making a maintenance order.
Child custody solicitors
Child custody describes the general care, residency and rearing of children, and it can be a difficult issue to resolve if you and your partner decide to divorce. Your solicitor can help you come to an agreement as quickly as possible, so that your children suffer minimal stress.
Following judicial separation or divorce, one parent generally gains custody. The children live permanently with that parent, and the other parent gets access to the children at agreed times, including possible overnight access. Parents may continue to have joint custody of their children after separation or divorce if they can agree on arrangements for their children to spend equal time with each of them.
If you cannot reach an agreement, either parent may apply to the court to determine which parent will have custody of the child and what access the other parent will have. You can apply to the District Court or the application can be made during proceedings for judicial separation or divorce in the Circuit Court.
Child access solicitors
If you do not have custody of your child, you may have access to them. This is the right of a child to maintain direct contact with the parent with whom they don’t live. It can include overnight stays either occasionally, regularly, or for holidays. Access may be arranged informally between the parents or in court. The welfare of the child is of paramount importance in the court’s considerations, and access will be denied only if the court believes that it is in the best interest of the child. The court may set the time, place and length of access visits and can order supervised access during visits if it is deemed appropriate.
Grandparents play a vital role in many children’s lives, but they do not have any automatic right to see their grandchildren if the child’s parents separate or divorce. However, the family court recognises the importance and benefits of the child-grandparent relationship and usually considers it to be in a grandchild’s best interests to spend time with their grandparents after a divorce or separation, unless there are grounds to the contrary. Your solicitor can help you:
- Get access to your grandchildren if it has been prevented following separation
- Become a legal guardian or adopt your grandchild
- Challenge a decision to relocate your grandchildren
You should try to reach an agreement to see your grandchildren through mediation or some other kind of agreement outside of court before making a court application. Your solicitor will guide you through the process, whichever route you need to take.
Child relocation after divorce
If you wish to make a new start after a separation or divorce and relocate with your child or children, you must get consent from the other parent or permission from the Court. Failure to take these steps could be seen as child abduction.