Helen Fitzsimons represented the Father in the case of Re H (Parental Alienation)  EWHC 2723 (Fam) – in this case the child, who had been alienated by his Mother against his Father, was transferred to the Father’s care with a 90 suspension of contact between the Mother and child.
Helen Fitzsimons represented a Father from London whose baby very sadly died. The Local Authority alleged the baby’s injuries were caused by non-accidental injury ie ‘baby-shaking’. We were able to robustly defend these allegations and instruct Queen’s Counsel and Junior Counsel along with instructing eminent medical experts. The local authority finally withdrew the case against the Father. He is now re-united with his two old children.
A Father from Bath has resumed his relationship with his children after their Mother stopped all contact for almost two years citing serious and unfounded allegations against him of abuse. This suspension of contact followed years of litigation and this Father was facing the real possibility that he would not see his children again. Upon instructing Helen Fitzsimons in the summer of 2017, an application was issued for a transfer of residence and a psychological assessment of the family on the basis that the Mother would not support contact. Francesca Wiley QC was instructed for this important interim hearing and a psychological assessment was ordered. Following the psychological assessment and filing of detailed evidence on behalf of the Father, a Court order was obtained to resume regular staying and holiday contact which has been very successful. We secured a provision that if these child arrangements were not adhered to or if the Mother did not support those arrangements the Father could restore the matter to Court in respect of the change of residence. This grateful Father said ‘I hold you and Fran in the highest regard and the outcome speaks for itself – the children are really happy in my care and I am extremely thankful.’
Helen Fitzsimons Family Law are delighted that Helen Fitzsimons is recommended and ranked in the Chambers and Partners 2018 UK Lawyers Guide. Chambers and Partners identifies and ranks the most outstanding law firms and lawyers in over 180 jurisdictions stating ‘Helen Fitzsimons of Helen Fitzsimons Family Law specialises in complex public law children work. She has a wealth of experience in parental alienation allegations, alleged child abuse and NAI among other issues.’
A Father from the Cotswolds transferred representation in his battle to resume contact with his children, from expensive London lawyers to Helen Fitzsimons. The proceedings in Oxford had been ongoing for many months and the Father was becoming disillusioned with the process. Helen Fitzsimons, through robust case management and representation, was able within three months to secure a child arrangements order to enable the children to spend quality time with their Father including half of all school holidays. The Father said ‘A huge thank you for your kindness and understanding. After a year and a half of virtually no emotional understanding from anyone involved in the process, it has constantly refreshing to work with you and see actual compassion displayed. Thank you.’
A local authority was seeking to remove children from their Grandmother’s care. The Grandmother, from West Sussex, instructed Helen Fitzsimons who successfully secured the Grandmother party status, obtaining an interim child arrangements order and securing the Grandmother parental responsibility. As such the Grandmother is now entitled to legal aid and will be represented throughout the remainder of the care proceedings. The Local Authority had refused any further assessment of the Grandmother but we were able to secure an Order that a full Special Guardianship Assessment be undertaken at the Local Authority’s expense. The Grandmother is delighted and said ‘I am delighted with the representation received from Helen Fitzsimons; everything was clearly explained and efficiently dealt with’.
A Father from London now sees his children after Mother stopped all contact for almost two years. This suspension of contact followed years of litigation over finance and the children. This Father had either instructed expensive London lawyers or been acting in person and was, after over many years of court proceedings, facing the real possibility that he would not see his children again. He then instructed Helen Fitzsimons in May 2017 who immediately put in an application for psychological assessment of the family and an application that if contact could not resume and be supported by the Mother there should be a transfer of residence. The evidence subsequently filed on behalf of the Father and the psychological assessment supported the Father’s case that he was a victim of parental alienation and the children had suffered emotional harm as a result of the Mother’s behaviour. At an interim hearing in September 2017, only some four months after instruction, Helen Fitzsimons appeared against Queen’s Counsel instructed by the Mother and was able to secure sensible child arrangements for the children to spend time with their Father which included half of all school holidays. She also obtained a provision that if these child arrangements were not adhered to or if the Mother did not support those arrangements the Father could restore the matter to Court in respect of the change of residence. Contact resumed one week after the Court hearing which has been a complete success. The Father is understandably delighted.
The prospect of going on holiday abroad should be an exciting one, eagerly anticipated and impatiently awaited. But for a parent who is separated or divorced it can be hugely stressful when their ex wants to take their children abroad.
Whether or not your ex can take your children on a holiday outside of the UK will depend on any legal arrangements in place, such as a Shared Parenting Agreement, existing Court Order and who has parental responsibility.
What is Parental Responsibility?
All mothers and most fathers automatically have parental responsibility (PR). A father usually has PR if he was married to the child’s mother or is named on the child’s birth certificate (although only for births from 1 December 2003 and depending on where in the UK the child was born).
Unmarried fathers can get PR by entering in to a parental responsibility agreement with the mother or a PR order from a court.
Anyone, not just parents, wishing to take a child out of the UK needs the permission of those with parental responsibility or a Court Order beforehand. Taking a child abroad without permission is considered child abduction.
In cases where there is a child arrangements order (a court order stipulating day-to-day practicalities, such as where children live, contact, schooling etc.), a parent can take children abroad for 28 days without gaining the permission of anyone else with parental responsibility.
However, they might be asked at a UK or foreign border to prove they have permission to take the children abroad, especially if their surnames differ. In such cases they will need to produce a letter from anyone with parental responsibility showing they have permission and evidence of their relationship with the child, such as a birth or adoption certificate, a divorce or marriage certificate.
Specific Issue and Prohibited Steps orders
If your ex does not have your permission as someone with parental responsibility, to take your children abroad, they will need to apply to the Family Court for that permission by way of a Specific Issue Order. If the court grants permission, your ex will no longer need your consent.
An alternative measure is a Prohibited Steps Order (PSO). This is an order granted by the Family Court preventing either parent from carrying out certain events or making specific trips with their children without the express permission of the other parent. A PSO addresses a single specific issue and imposes a restriction, for example, on changing a child’s surname or removing a child from the UK (where there is no child arrangements order in force).
We can advise and assist
Establishing Parental Responsibility, preparing a Shared Parenting Agreement, applying for a Specific Issue Order or a Prohibited Steps Order are complex issues where the expertise and advice of a family law specialist can help.
Helen Fitzsimons Family Law are experienced in dealing with all issues concerning children and international cases, including abduction with removal from the UK. Contact us to discuss any issues in more detail.
While teachers and children cannot wait for the summer holidays, their excitement is not always shared by parents who are separated or divorced. Issues involving children, such as where they will live and how they will spend time with each parent, are amongst the most difficult when parents separate.
But dealing with childcare during the holidays doesn’t have to be daunting. With some careful planning, co-operation and clear communication, everyone can look forward to a stress-free summer.
How to have a stress-free summer following separation or divorce
Know the dates – sounds obvious but schools often have different end of term and new term start dates each year. Also watch out for teacher training INSET days, which are often tagged on to the end of term or the beginning of the new term, making the holiday longer you may think.
Compare diaries -this will help you to understand each other’s schedules and commitments over the holiday period and identify where there may be an issue concerning childcare. This will allow you to agree childcare arrangements that will work for you both and for the children.
Plan holidays early -and don’t book anything until everything has been agreed. If you are planning a specific trip, a holiday abroad, a few weeks away, then make sure you have discussed this with your children’s other parent and have their agreement before you go ahead and book it.
Discuss finances – if childcare or activities need to be arranged over the holiday period be clear as to how these will be paid for and by whom.
Plan logistics - the holidays can be a hectic time for children who are co-parented, with both parents wanting to holiday with them and take them out and about. Make sure all your plans work for everyone in terms of meeting up, collecting and dropping off, where their belongings will be and so on.
Be child-focussed - make sure you keep the children’s best interests at the centre of everything you do. Holidays shouldn’t be an opportunity to compete with each other as to who can show the children the best time. They will want to enjoy time with both of you. You may want to involve older children in the discussions about the holidays, as they could well want to ensure they will be able to spend time with their friends or simply hanging out at home.
Coming to an agreement
A Shared Parenting Agreement is a good way to agree on how you are going to continue sharing the parenting role, but from separate households. They offer separating parents the opportunity to have a written agreement of the arrangements they have made between themselves concerning their children.
Shared Parenting Agreements record the practical day-to-day arrangements for the care of your children, such as where they will live, contact with each parent, financial support, their schooling and upbringing, and can contain details of how they will spend the holidays, which could save a lot of time and stress in the run-up to the summer holidays each year.
Helen Fitzsimons Family Law can advise you on the most appropriate arrangements based upon your family situation and create a Shared Parenting Agreement that will see you all enjoying stress-free summers. Contact us for more information.
Helen Fitzsimons successfully represented a Mother from West London accused by the Father of alienating their child against him. The Mother transferred to Helen Fitzsimons Family Law having been unhappy with the representation she was receiving from her local solicitor. Our case was that the Father had been abusive to the Mother and Child and both the Mother and child would be at significant risk of psychological harm if the Court ordered contact. The Mother strongly denied parental alienation. As a result of our thorough preparation of detailed evidence and robust representation the Father withdrew his application for a child arrangements order and we were able to avoid the financial and emotional cost of a 3-day contested final hearing. We were also able to secure a change of name for the child in accordance with his wishes. The Mother said ‘I am so grateful for what you have done for us that it is difficult to find the words to adequately express it.’