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Cheryl and Liam Payne split: how might they avoid a dispute over child contact?

View profile for Victoria Gethin
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Cheryl Cole and Liam Payne split: avoiding dispute over their son

After months of speculation Cheryl and Liam Payne have announced their separation. The couple confirmed their relationship in February 2016 and had a son, Bear, in March 2017. Both Cheryl and Liam posted tweets about the separation and both stated “Bear is our world and we ask that you respect his privacy as we navigate our way through this together”.

It is reported that Liam moved out of their £5 million mansion two weeks ago but is still having regular contact with Bear. Liam may want to set out an agreement about his contact with Bear. In the event of any dispute with regard to the arrangement in order to reduce hostility, especially when young children are involved, it is helpful to try to resolve any dispute through mediation. The mediation process allows both parties to discuss their concerns with someone independent in a less formal setting than the court and to communicate and co-operate to reach their own agreement. Mediation can be much quicker, less expensive and less stressful than going to court. However agreements reached in mediation are not legally binding and cannot be enforced by the court.

If you do instruct a solicitor to negotiate any agreements, but wish to reduce hostility it can assist to use a lawyer who is a member of Resolution. Resolution lawyers practice a non-confrontational approach to family law matters. Stephensons family department has six Resolution accredited members who are able to offer specialist advice. An agreement drawn up by lawyers is not legally binding unless it is then approved by the court in a consent order but does set out the parties clear intentions in terms of what is felt to be in the child’s best interests. The court shall not make an order unless it considers that doing so would be better for the child than making no order at all. 

If mediation is not successful and an agreement cannot be reached, you may need to apply to court for for a child arrangements order. You cannot apply to the court for a court order unless you have attempted mediation unless there is an exemption, for example, where there has been domestic violence.  

If, like Liam Payne, you are not married to the mother of your child you do not automatically have parental responsibility unless your name is on the child’s birth certificate. If your name is not on the certificate you would need to ask the mother to sign a parental responsibility agreement or seek a court order for parental responsibility. Parental responsibility is defined as "all rights duties powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”. The parent who is caring for the child will have day to day responsibility for them but should consult the other parent on issues such as medical treatment and schooling.

If you make an application to the court for a child arrangements order or parental responsibility order, the court will make a decision based on the child’s welfare. The court will consider the following factors: the wishes of the child (considered in light of their age and understanding), the child's physical, emotional and educational needs, the likely effect upon the child of a change in their circumstances, the child's age, sex, background and any other characteristics which the court feels are relevant, any harm which the child have suffered or are at risk of suffering, how capable each of the parents are of meeting the child’s needs and what, if any, orders may be necessary.

Stephensons have a specialist family team who can advise, assist and provide representation in relation to children matters. If you require advice please contact our team on 0175 321 6399.

The above is only a brief guide and anyone undergoing a dispute regarding their child should seek independent legal advice.

By Victoria Gethin and Hannah Mallin in the family law department

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