Saturday, 13 August 2016

What does Parental Responsibility mean?

The statutory definition of “Parental Responsibility “includes the “rights, duties and responsibilities of the parent”.

The Court held in a 2015 case that warring parents are too often focused on their rights and overlook or minimise their duties and responsibilities.   The Judge went on to state that Parental Responsibility is much more than a legal concept but a fundamentally important reflection of the realities of the human condition and the very essence of a parent/child relationship.  It signifies both parents’ duties to their child.

This case related to a situation where the children refused to spend time with their Father and the Mother did not assist by exhibiting hostility towards the Father in the presence of the children. 

No matter what the age of the child, parents should not shirk their responsibility by sheltering behind a child’s refusal to do something. 

Parenting, particularly of headstrong teenagers, is very tough, but parental responsibility did not shrivel away in relation to such children and they have to do their level best to ensure compliance by the children.

This article is for information only.

If you require help or legal advice please contact us on 0191 213 1010 or on

We can speak to you on the phone for 20 minutes at no charge.

We also offer fixed fees.

Friday, 5 August 2016

I am going to Court on my own as I cannot afford a solicitor – can I take someone with me for support?

Yes you are allowed to take someone with you for support. 

This person could be termed “A McKenzie Friend” and they can:
• Provide you with moral support;
• Take notes;
• Help with case papers;
• Quietly give you advice on any aspect of the conduct of the case.

A McKenzie Friend cannot:
• Act as your agent in relation to the proceedings.
• Manage your case outside of court, for example by signing documents on your behalf.
• Address the Court, make oral submissions or examine witnesses.

A McKenzie Friend should not have any personal interest in the case, they should understand their role and understand the importance of confidentiality.

Normally a McKenzie Friend would be allowed into Court unless fairness and justice does not require, so unless there was a valid reason then there should not be any objections to their attendance with you in Court.

At Newcastle Family Court you can also ask for assistance from the PSU who can also help you with filling in court forms.

This article is for information only.

Please contact us if you require help or detailed legal advice on 0191 213 1010 or on

We will speak to you on the phone for 20 minutes for no charge.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

What is involved with Hair Strand Drug Testing?

What are the benefits of Hair Strand Drug Testing?

There is a unique long window of detection covering a period of months with hair stand drug testing.  In comparison to other testing such as blood or urine where the time period can be as little as a couple of days.

Drugs remain locked in hair for as long as the hair is there.  Drugs will remain in the hair almost permanently.  This means that for example 12 centimetres of hair can show drug usage over the past 12 months.

The testing can determine which specific drugs have been used.

Hair strand testing allows for sectional month by month analysis so that trends and patterns of drug usage can be seen.

Simple and quick sample collection, involves just a sample of hair being taken.  Whereas blood and urine testing can be more invasive.

This testing is commonly used and accepted as evidence in cases involving children in the Family Courts.

This article is for information only. If you require help and legal advice please contact us on 0191 213 1010 or on

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

I don't want my partner to see our children as we have just split up

Should both parents have contact with the children upon the breakdown of a relationship?

It is a growing principle in family law that contact should not be refused between parent and child unless absolutely necessary in the child’s interests.  It is important that children have a meaningful relationship with both of their parents unless it is not safe or would be against their welfare.  This is a principle that is upheld by the Courts.

If an agreement is unable to be reached between the parents directly then legal advice can be sought.

A family solicitor would attempt to agree acceptable arrangements so that both parents would spend time with the children.  A family solicitor may also recommend alternative methods to resolve the matter such as Mediation or Parenting After Parting.

Mediators are trained to help resolve disputes between separating couples and assist the parties in reaching an agreement. The aim of mediation is to resolve family disputes without going to court.
Parenting After Parting is a service which can provide advice on contact matters and aid separating couples in coming to an agreement. This course can be attended separately.

Finally, if none of the above methods are successful then an application could be made to Court for a Child Arrangement Order, which will set out the arrangements for the children including who they will live with and who they shall spend time with. 

Monday, 11 July 2016

I have made an application to family court for my daughter - what do I do now?

You have made an application to Court for a Child Arrangements Order – what happens now?

A referral will be made to CAFCASS (The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service).  CAFCASS are a non-departmental public body in England set up to promote the welfare of children and families involved in family court. 

CAFCASS will undertake safeguarding checks with the Police and the Local Authority on all parties.  The CAFCASS officer will also have discussions with all parties usually over the telephone.  A short letter will be provided to the Court in advance of the first hearing with all information received and any recommendations for moving forward.

A First Hearing Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA) will be listed.  All parties and the CAFCASS Officer will attend this hearing and be directed to attend in advance of the hearing to enable discussions to take place. 

The FHDRA is the first time the matter is before the Court.  It is hoped that an agreement could be reached with the assistance of CAFCASS.  If this is not possible then directions can be made to help the resolution of the application which can include whether any detailed assessments should be carried out, any expert involvement or whether the parties should file detailed statements.  The interim arrangements for the child will also need to be considered at this stage.

This article is for information only.

If you need help and detailed advice contact us on 0191 213 1010 or on

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Do you need a DNA test in family court proceedings?

There is a DNA Testing Pilot Project in place for orders needed in family court proceedings.

With the restrictions in Legal Aid Funding over the past few years, this can often leave no way of funding the cost of DNA, alcohol and drug testing in private law children matters.  The outcome of these tests can often be fundamental to the resolution of the arrangements for the child.

From 23 November 2015, funding has been introduced to allow CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) to pay for DNA tests to establish the paternity of a child in the family courts.  This funding is only available in the following circumstances:
1. An application has been made for Child Arrangement Order;
2. A decision cannot be made by the Court as to what the arrangements should be for the child(ren) unless the dispute about paternity of the child(ren) is resolved; and
3. The parents are prepared to co-operate with the DNA testing.

CAFCASS will manage this testing and are required to provide the results to the Court within 6 weeks of the Order being made.

There is currently no similar provision for Drug and Alcohol Testing but watch this space…….

Saturday, 25 June 2016

What protection is available from a violent partner in the Family Courts?

If you need protection from a violent partner or family member then an application can be made for a Non Molestation Order. 

If there is risk of immediate harm then an application to Court could be made on an emergency basis without giving notice to the former partner (“Respondent”).  If the Order was made without the Respondent being present then there would be a return hearing listed in which his/her position could be provided to the Court but the Applicant would have the protection of the Order in the intervening period.
A Non Molestation Order would prohibit the Respondent from being violent, threatening or harassing towards the Applicant.  It would also prohibit the Respondent from contacting the Applicant by any means whatsoever (including by telephone, text message or electronic communication).  The Order would further forbid the Respondent from attending at the Applicant’s home and in certain circumstances from going within a defined distance of the Applicant’s home. 
The Non Molestation Order would be effective when served upon the Respondent.  A copy would also be provided to the Police Station.
Breach of a Non Molestation Order is a criminal offence and the Respondent would be arrested if they breached the same.  The Applicant would contact the Police, who would hold a copy of the Order if they felt there had been a breach.
If the separating couple lived together and both parties had a legal right to occupy the property in which they lived (ie. Joint tenants or joint owners) then consideration should be given to applying for an Occupation Order as well.  An Occupation Order would prevent the alleged violent partner from residing in the property which the separating couple had previously lived in together. 

This short article is for information only.

Please contact us if you need help and detailed advice on 0191 213 1010 or