LIFE BITE : Brad v Angelina – Couple reach Child Custody Agreement

apple-150579_1280The latest in the bitter ‘Brangelina’ custody battle is that Angelina Jolie will continue to have sole custody of her six children with Brad Pitt. 

Media sources say that a joint agreement was reached by both stars in consultation with childcare professionals.   The agreement allows for the couple’s six children to continue to have “therapeutic visits” with their father.

In September 2016, Angelina filed for divorce against Brad, days after citing irreconcilable differences as the reason for the breakup. However, it was stated by lawyers at the time that the divorce was “for the health of the family.”

Soon after they separated, the couple reached a temporary custody agreement that included Brad having visitation with his children and both sides agreeing to meetings with therapists.

Relationship breakdown is a very painful time for the adults involved, but it can be even more difficult for children.   Children within the family are often the innocent and confused casualties of the breakdown of a relationship.

Many parents are able to agree between themselves arrangements for their children which enable them to continue to enjoy a relationship with both parents.

For many other families,  contact arrangements cannot be agreed.  Some parents choose to engage in mediation as a means of trying to negotiate a solution.

Where mediation is not suitable or has proved unsuccessful, an application can be made to Family Courts to resolve the issues of contact (‘visitation’) and residence (‘custody’)

In Northern Ireland, children proceedings are dealt with by the Family Proceedings Court – in this Court, the child’s best interests are the primary concern. This means that the main focus will always be on the welfare of the child first, rather than the rights of either parent.  It is a commonly held view that (if safe and appropriate) a child should enjoy a relationship with both parents.

For more information on the subjects of contact and residence, please read our blog ‘Having Contact with Your Children’ or alternatively contact us here.

Father’s Rights

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Father’s Day is a celebration of fatherhood, paternal bonds and the influence of fathers in our lives.  It’s a day when children lavish daddy with cards, gifts, hugs and kisses and where fathers celebrate both the joys and rewards of having children.

Of course, the role of being a dad extends above and beyond one particular day and as any dad will know, along with the rewards of having children comes a lifetime of responsibility. It is the job of both parents to ensure that this responsibility is taken seriously and exercised in the best interests of their children.

This can sometimes be difficult to achieve when the parent’s relationship breaks down. Separation, particularly when the father and child no longer live together, can leave daddy feeling like his role in his child’s life is somehow diminished and less important.

This does not have to be the case. As a father, you can have Parental Responsibility for your child

What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental Responsibility is the legal term for the rights of each parent to be involved in making decisions in the best interest of their children.

It is defined in the Children (NI) Order 1995 as ‘all rights, duties, powers and responsibilities and authority which by law a parent has in relation to the child and his property.’

Do I have Parental Responsibility?

If you are married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth, you automatically get Parental Responsibility.

If you and the child’s mother are not married, Parental Responsibility is not automatic but you can get it n the following ways:-

  • If your child is born after December 2003 and you are named on the birth certificate
  • Through a formal written agreement with the mother
  • By obtaining a Parental Responsibility Order from the Court
  • By having a Residence Order in respect of your child.

What difference does having Parental Responsibility make?

Parental Responsibility is not a label to be worn by a father.

In practical terms, this responsibility gives you as the child’s father the right, for example,

  • To be involved in choosing their school
  • To be kept informed of their progress at school and sent copies of school reports.
  • To give consent to medical treatment
  • To determine your child’s religion
  • To be involved in choosing their child’s name and to agree any change in surname.

I have separated from my child’s mother – do I still have rights?

The short answer is yes.

Parental Responsibility goes some way to ensuring that you can continue to have a pro-active and beneficial input into your child’s life.

Where parents separate, it will often be the case that they can work out themselves where their children are to live and how much time they will spend with each parent.

However, if you cannot agree arrangement with your child’s mother, then you can apply to the Court and ask it to make decisions that are deemed to be in the best interests of your child.

  • The Court can decide where and with whom your child should live. This is known as a Residence Order.
  • In some cases, the Court may make a Joint Residence Order in favour of both parents, where the contact arrangements are such that your child will be spending time living in both your home and their mum’s home.
  • If your child lives with mum, the Court can decide on how much contact you can have with your child. This is known as Contact Orders.
Although in an ideal world it is better where possible for parents to agree issues concerning their children, the law is there to guarantee your child’s right to enjoy a relationship with both parents where this is in their best interests.

For further information on this topic, please feel free to contact Karen or Claire or alternatively leave us your comments below.