Lesbian parenting

When parents separate there are sometimes
decisions that need to be made about a child’s upbringing, other than
about contact or where the child should live (see our Guides to Parental
Responsibility, Contact and Residence for further information about
these issues). This legal guide has been prepared to provide general
legal information about the other types of orders the court can make in
relation to children and to answer some frequently asked questions.
Some of these issues can be complicated and your circumstances will
be individual to you. You should therefore also seek legal advice.
l your child’s education – for example what Whilst in this legal guide we refer to the child’s l your child’s religion – for example whether other parent as ‘he’ we recognise that this may your child should be brought up in one faith not be the case. The law set out in this legal guide is generally the same regardless of l your child’s health – for example what whether your child’s other parent is a man or a medical treatment your child should have; woman, but if your child’s other parent is a woman you may also wish to read this guide l your child’s surname (see Changing your
alongside our Guide to Lesbian Parenting and
child’s name below).
The court is unlikely to become involved in Specific issue orders
less important decisions about the way inwhich you bring up your children, such as the A specific issue order (SIO) is an order the
day-to-day decisions you make. For example, your child’s other parent is unlikely to be able parental responsibility (PR) for a child (see our to ask the court to interfere in decisions about Guide to Parental Responsibility) cannot
the clothes you dress your child in, the food agree about an important decision in a child’s you give your child or who you choose to baby- upbringing. You can ask the court to make a Prohibited steps orders
him in the last year. For full details of the
procedure and exceptions please see our Guide
A prohibited steps order (PSO) is an order the
to Child Contact. If you have experienced
court can make to forbid a person who has PR domestic violence, or for any other reason you for a child from taking certain action in relation want a meeting with the mediator separate to that child. You can ask the court to make a from your child’s other parent (or anyone else PSO forbidding your child’s other parent or with PR), then you can contact the mediator l remove your child from your care;l remove your child from school; How the court makes decisions
l take your child abroad (see also Child
about children
abduction below); or,
l bring your child into contact with certain When making any decision about your child the court must consider all your child’scircumstances and in particular the following emergency and without the other person being l your child’s wishes and feelings
given notice of the hearing. The court may make understanding (generally the older your child another hearing when the other person can is the more emphasis the court will place on attend and put his or her side of the story. A PSO could also be made to last indefinitely.
l your child’s physical, emotional and
educational needs (this includes practical
Procedure for applying for a SIO
Before you apply for an order, you must first l the likely effect on your child of any
contact a mediator and arrange for a family
change in her or his circumstances (the
mediation information and assessment
court will look at the previous or existing meeting (FMIAM) with your child’s other
arrangements and generally considers that parent (or anyone else who has PR that you have a disagreement with), to discuss if the l your child’s age, sex, background and
problem can be addressed using mediation.
any characteristics the court thinks
This requirement does not apply if you are relevant (this could include any cultural or
applying to the court on an emergency basis e.g. in the event of child abduction (see below). l any harm your child has suffered or is at
There are some exceptions (even if you are not risk of suffering (this includes physical,
applying in an emergency) that mean you do sexual or emotional abuse and any domestic not have to attend a mediation assessment
meeting. For example, if your child’s other l how capable both parents are of meeting
parent was abusing or harassing you and a your child’s needs (the court can consider
non-molestation order has been made against both your skills in looking after your child unsure who has PR for your child see our Guide
to Parental Responsibility.
impaired, for example, by drink or drugs) l If you wish to move or go on holiday with l the range of powers available to the court
your child within the court’s jurisdiction
(the court can choose from a very wide range i.e. England and Wales, without your child’s other parent’s consent no criminal offence is being committed and you do not need his
permission, or that of the court
, to do
Changing your child’s name
this. There are applications he can make to court to prevent you from doing this though requirements for changing your child’s surname, there is clear guidance from the courts that says l If you wish to move or go on holiday with you must first seek the permission of your
your child within the UK but outside of the
child’s other parent (specifically the child’s
court’s jurisdiction i.e. Scotland and
biological father) to change the child’s name.
Northern Ireland, you will not be committing This is the case regardless of whether he has a criminal offence if you go without your PR or not. If you do not get his permission, he could apply to the court for a specific issue
nevertheless his permission or that of the order to change the child’s name back to his
court should be sought because court orders surname. In a number of cases where parents can be issued for your child’s return.
have separated, the courts have said that it is l If you wish to move or go on holiday with important for children to maintain a link with your child outside the UK then you need
their father and that sharing his surname is an your child’s other parent’s prior permission important part of that. In these cases the court (if he has PR, please see our Guide to
has changed the name back to the father’s Parental Responsibility), or that of the
surname. If the change of name is agreed, or a court. If you do not have this then you will court has agreed to it, you can prepare a be committing the criminal offence of
statutory declaration or change of name
child abduction and an international arrest
deed to formally change your child’s surname.
warrant can be issued as well as a courtorder for your return.
Moving or going on holiday with
l If you have a residence order for your child
your child
you do not need permission from your
child’s other parent or the courts to take

It is a criminal offence if you take or send a
your child out of England and Wales (or
child out of the UK, either permanently or
the UK) for a maximum of one month.
for a holiday, without getting the prior
permission of either everyone else with PR
for the child (in most cases this will be your

Moving within England and Wales
child’s other parent) or the court. Scotland
and Northern Ireland are within the UK, but they
Generally you are free to move to live wherever are out of the court’s jurisdiction. If you are you choose with your child within England and Taking your child abroad to live
distance from your child’s other parent this may permanently
have an impact on any contact arrangements Before you take your child abroad to live they have with your child. You may need to permanently you should seek the prior consent make alternative contact arrangements that (preferably in written form) of anyone else who take into account the longer journey and who is has PR for your child (if you are not sure who has going to be responsible for that journey.
PR see our Guide to Parental Responsibility).
In most cases the court is not likely to interfere If others with PR do not agree to this, you can with a decision to move to a new area but the make an application to the court for leave to
courts have restricted women from moving to remove your child permanently from the
another area where the court considered that jurisdiction. You will need to show the court
documentary evidence that you have a clear plan for your new life abroad, that you have connection to the area or clear plans for made plans for where you will live and where your child will go to school. You should also tell education. In one case the court placed a the court about any plans you have to work and restriction on a woman from moving outside of any support you will have from family and a particular area, but the judge made it clear that the facts of the case were exceptional and that each case should be looked at on its own jurisdiction is solely to frustrate contact arrangements, then the application may berefused. Therefore, if your child has been having Taking your child abroad for a
contact with their other parent, it is very important that you provide the court with clear,realistic, plans for your child to maintain Unless you have a residence order, before you appropriate contact with them, and this should take your child abroad for a holiday you should include who will pay for travel costs.
seek the prior permission of anyone else whohas PR for your child (if you are not sure who Child abduction out of the UK
has PR, and in particular whether your child’s
other parent has, see our Guide to Parental
It is a criminal offence for a parent of a child Responsibility). If they do not agree to you
under 16 to take or send a child out of the UK without getting the prior consent of either application to the court for leave to remove
your child from the jurisdiction. Scotland
and Northern Ireland are outside the court’s If you are concerned that someone intends to jurisdiction. If anyone else with PR refuses you take your child you should contact the police
permission to take your child on holiday at the and seek urgent legal advice. Someone might
last minute and you have already booked your have threatened to take your child or you may tickets you can make an emergency application have found out that someone is making plans to take your child abroad. The police can contact all you should contact the police and seek
the national police forces and the immigration urgent legal advice. The police can make
authorities. The person who has abducted your enquiries to find your child and could arrest and charge the person who has abducted her or abduction. If there is a real and imminent risk
him. You can also apply to the court for a PSO
of your child being abducted abroad a port alert
to forbid the person from removing your child (also called an ‘all ports warning’) can be
issued by the police at all ports and airports to help stop her or him from being taken abroad.
If your child has been taken by her or his father Contact Reunite (see ‘Other useful contacts’) or or someone else with PR you should seek
your legal advisor if the police do not take urgent legal advice. You can also contact the
police and they may make enquiries to find your To help prevent your child being abducted, ensure child and return her or him to you if your child that you have your child’s passport and that you
is at risk of harm. If your child is not at risk of keep photocopies of it too. You can ask the court harm they may advise you to seek legal advice to order that someone else hands over your child’s about applying to the court for your child to be passport and any travel documents if you have grounds to believe they are intending to abduct If you do not know where your child is, the court your child. You can also apply to the court for a can order certain people or agencies such as PSO to forbid someone from removing your child
from your care and from the country (see above).
court of any information they have about where If your child has already been taken out of the your child is, including disclosing to the court country seek urgent legal advice and contact the the address of the person you believe to have International Child Abduction and Contact Unit (ICACU) (see below for contact details) and collection order and instruct court officials to
Reunite. The procedure for applying for your child go and find your child and return her or him to to be returned to you depends on which country you. You can also apply to the court for a residence order which confirms that your child
should live with you (see our Guide to
Child abduction within the UK
Residence Orders) and a PSO to forbid the
person from removing your child from your care
If you have PR for a child under 16, it is a criminal offence for someone without PR to
remove or retain your child from your care
The issues relating to orders about children
without your permission. However, even if your can be complex and we have provided a
child’s father does not have PR he will not be very basic overview of terminology, law and
guilty of child abduction if he takes your child to court practice and procedure. We would
also strongly advise you to seek legal advice
If your child has been taken by someone who by either telephoning our legal advice line
does not have PR other than her or his father or a solicitor.
For free, confidential, legal advice on family law issues including divorce and
relationship breakdown, children, domestic violence and lesbian parenting call our
Family Law Advice Line on 020 7251 6577 (telephone) or 020 7490 2562 (textphone) on
Mondays 11am–1pm, Tuesdays and Wednesdays 2–4pm and 7–9pm, Thursdays 7–9pm
and Fridays 12noon–2pm.
For free, confidential, legal advice on criminal law issues including domestic and
sexual violence call our Criminal Law Advice Line on 020 7251 8887 (telephone) or 020
7490 2562 (textphone) on Tuesdays 11am –1pm and Thursdays 2–4pm.
For free, confidential, legal advice on immigration and asylum law, including in relation
to financial support issues call our Immigration and Asylum Law Advice Line on 020
7490 7689 (telephone) or 020 7490 2562 (textphone) on Mondays 2–4pm and
Wednesdays 11am–1pm.
Other useful contacts
0845 345 4345 http://legaladviserfinder.justice.gov.uk/ 020 7911 7127 www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/protecting- the-vulnerable/official-solicitor/international-child-abduction-and-contact-unit/ National Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 2000 247 www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk Rights of Women, 52-54 Featherstone Street, London EC1Y 8RT
Office/Admin: 020 7251 6575 Textphone: 020 7490 2562
Fax: 020 7490 5377 Email: info@row.org.uk
Website: www.rightsofwomen.org.uk

Industrial and Provident Society No: 23221R
Funded by London Councils
Please note that the law as set out in this legal guide is the law as it stood at the date
of publication. The law may have changed since then and accordingly you are advised
to take up to date legal advice. Rights of Women cannot accept responsibility for any
reliance placed on the legal information contained in this legal guide. This legal guide
is designed to give general information only.
Rights of Women September 2011

Source: http://www.rightsofwomen.org.uk/pdfs/Legal/when_parents_separate_2011.pdf

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Lecturers and Participants Prof. Dr. Robert Bednarz Department of Geography - Texas A&M University, USA Prof. Dr. James F. Petersen Department of Geography - Texas State University, USA Dr. Anna Lyth Prof. Dr. Min Wang Department of Geography – Beijing Normal University, China Dr. Ueli Nagel Zurich University of Teacher Education, Switzerland Mr. Wolfgang Pekny


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