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Organisation: Law Society
Details: Use the website to find a solicitor in your area.
Details: Association of solicitors specialising in family law, who adopt a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family problems. It can provide a list of local members. The website contains free information on issues such as splitting up, parenting apart and child maintenance. Resolution produce a booklet, Separation and divorce – Helping parents to help children, a practical guide to handling the emotional aspects of separation or divorce.
Phone: 0845 758 5671
Organisation: Family Mediation Helpline
Details: Provides general information on family mediation and can tell you whether your case may be suitable for mediation. Can also give information about eligibility for free help, and contact details for local mediation services.
Search online for local telephone services.
Organisation: National Family Mediation
Details: This is a local network of not-for-profit family mediation services, which offers a practical approach to resolving disputes between separated or separating couples. Aims to help individuals reach joint decisions on issues associated with their separation such as children, finance or property.
Phone: 0300 4000 636
Arbitration is an alternative to going to court. It is a new process for resolving family disputes, and can only be used for financial matters; it cannot be used to resolve disputes about arrangements for children.
Arbitration is similar to the court process. A trained professional will make a decision for you, in the same way a judge would. It can be quicker and cheaper than going to court. For more information, contact the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators – see the Further Help and Information section.
Applying to the court should be the last resort, when all other attempts to agree have failed or aren't suitable. Court action can be lengthy and expensive, and parents may not get the outcome they want.
Before you can apply for a court order, most people will have to consider mediation, and show a form at the court to prove that you have been to a meeting to discuss the suitability of mediation. This is called a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting. There are exemptions to attending a meeting, for example if you have suffered domestic violence. For more information contact National Family Mediation.
The court will encourage you to reach agreement, but if you cannot it may be necessary for the court to issue an order.
The following are the most common orders a court can issue in relation to disputes over children:
When deciding whether to make an order, the court must consider whether it would be better for the welfare of the child to make an order than not make an order. The court will not make an order unless it is necessary. The welfare of the child must be the court’s paramount consideration when making decisions. This is known as ‘the welfare principle’.
There are certain things that a court will consider when deciding what is in a child’s best interests. This is known as the ‘welfare checklist’. The court will consider all the circumstances of the case and not just the checklist, but it is the starting point. The checklist is:
If you're considering applying for a court order, or your child’s other parent has applied for a court order, you should think about getting legal advice. If you cannot get help with the costs through legal aid, seeing a solicitor can be expensive.
If it is not possible for you to see a solicitor, consider getting some help from an organisation that can give you some advice for free, such as the Coram Children’s Legal Centre, Rights of Women, or Citizens Advice – see below for details. For more information see the Gingerbread factsheet Getting Legal Help.
Organisation: Citizen’s Advice
Details: Information and advice on a wide range of issues including benefits and tax credits.
Phone: England: 08444 111 444; Wales: 08444 77 20 20
Organisation: Coram Children’s Legal Centre
Details: The child law advice line provides legal advice and information on all aspects of law and policy affecting children. Information is available on parental responsibility, contact and residence disputes.
Phone: 0808 8020 008
Organisation: Rights of Women
Details: Free, confidential legal advice by telephone for women on a wide variety of issues. Specialist areas include family law, lesbian parenting, divorce/relationship breakdown, children/contact issues and domestic violence.
Phone: 020 7251 6577
Details: The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) provides confidential information and advice for anyone considering counselling. They can assist you to find a registered counsellor in your local area and produce information
to help you to find the right counsellor for you.
Phone: 01455 883 300
Organisation: Civil Legal Advice
Details: Can assess your eligibility for legal aid and signpost to local sources of help.
Phone: 0345 345 4345
Organisation: Family Mediator’s Association
Details: Provides information on family mediation, and directs to local mediation services.
Phone: 01355 244594
Organisation: Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline
Details: Free information on a range of issues including maintenance, benefits, tax credits, debt, employment, education, legal rights and holidays. Open Mondays to Fridays, 9.00am – 5.00pm, with extended opening on Wednesdays to 8.00pm.
Phone: Freephone 0808 802 0925
Organisation: Institute of Family Law Arbitrators
Details: For information on family law arbitration.
Phone: 01689 820272
Organisation: Men’s Advice Line
Details: Confidential helpline for men who have experienced or who are experiencing domestic abuse. Provides emotional support and practical advice including how to make yourself safer, where to get legal advice, how domestic abuse affects children and information for gay and bisexual men.
Phone: 0808 801 0327
Organisation: National Domestic Violence Helpline
Details: The freephone 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline is run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge. It is a national service for women experiencing domestic violence or their friends and families. A translation service is available.
Phone: 0808 2000 247
Organisation: One Parent Families Scotland Lone Parent Helpline
Details: Run by our partner organisation, the Lone Parent Helpline provides confidential advice and information for single parents in Scotland.
Phone: 0808 801 0323
Details: Provides a counselling service especially for children and young people who are having problems at home. Also offers a range of services for couples, families and individuals and supports them at all stages of their relationships.
Phone: 0300 100 1234
Organisation: The Parent Connection
Details: The website supports parents through separation and parenting difficulties. There are a range of resources including articles, videos and support to develop a new parenting relationship after separation, along with practical ideas to overcome problems.
Gingerbread has no control over the contents of these organisations' websites or products
and services offered, these links and/or contact details are provided for your information only.
Gingerbread accepts no responsibility for any loss or damage that may arise from your use of these websites
and/or products and services offered by third parties.
Helpline: 0808 802 0925
Gingerbread, the charity for single parent families, is registered in England and Wales as a company limited by guarantee, no. 402748, and a registered charity, no. 230750
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