Absent Parent

Please consider your children's wishes

• Making an application - children and the family courts.
• How the court can help you.
• Family Mediation.

Before you begin proceedings you may want to consider Mediation. In mediation, an impartial, trained mediator, not connected with your case, helps you and your partner to resolve your disputes.

Public funding may be available from the Community Legal Advice (CLA) service. The CLA telephone number is 0845 345 4 345 and their website is www.communitylegaladvice.org.uk. Mediation takes place away from the court.

Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service launched the Family Mediation Helpline (FMH) in May 2006. Trained operators provide information to callers about family mediation in general, whether mediation is suitable for particular cases and the likelihood of eligibility of parties for public funding.

The FMH database has the details of all the accredited members of the five main mediation organisations in England and Wales. Callers can be provided with the details of their local services or request a direct referral where a mediator will contact the caller to discuss their case in more detail and arrange an appointment for an assessment meeting.

The FMH telephone number is 0845 60 26 627 and the supporting website is www.FamilyMediationHelpline.co.uk.

Parenting Plans: Putting children first - A guide for separating parents.

‘Parenting Plans: Putting children first - A guide for separating parents’ is a free booklet for separating parents designed to help parents reach agreement about contact and other arrangements for their children following parental separation or divorce. You can get a copy from your local family court or you can download a copy from www.tsoshop.co.uk. You can get a copy of a Welsh version from any CAFCASS CYMRU office or any Welsh court.

‘Parenting Plans’ explores a range of issues you may need to consider in making contact and other arrangements for your children, and includes practical examples of how other parents in a variety of family structures and circumstances have resolved problems. It also provides a list of organisations that can provide further advice and help.

The court makes most decisions about children using a law, called the Children Act 1989. If you want the court to make a decision about a child, you need to apply to the court for an "order". An order will be made when the judge makes a decision. Some of the orders you may wish to apply for are described below. These are just some of the decisions a court can make under the Children Act 1989.

Contact Order

These are orders that require the person with whom a child lives, to allow that child to visit, stay or have contact with a person named in the order.

For example, if your child lives with your former partner and you wish to see your child at weekends then you might apply for a contact order, if you cannot agree this between yourselves.

Residence Order

These orders decide where and with whom the child is to live. For example, if you and your partner have separated and you want your child to live with you, but cannot agree this, then you might apply for a residence order.

Specific Issue

These orders give instructions about a specific issue that has arisen in the order about an action normally undertaken by a parent. For example, if you and your former partner cannot agree on whether your child should have a major operation, then you might apply for a specific issue order.


These orders mean a person must have the court’s permission before Steps Order undertaking actions specified in the order, that would normally be undertaken by a parent. For example, to require a parent to seek the court’s permission before taking the child to a foreign country.

Parental Responsibility

Parental Responsibility means all the rights, duties, powers, responsibility and authority, which by law a parent of a child has in Order relation to the child and his property. For example, if you are father of a child but you were not married to the child’s mother, nor named on the birth certificate when the child’s birth was registered, but you wish to be recognised legally as the child’s father, then you may apply for a Parental Responsibility Order.

Financial Provision

Financial Provision is where parents can agree about child maintenance, they can choose to make a private arrangement between themselves or obtain a court consent order. Where this is not possible or a private agreement breaks down, they can ask the Child Support Agency (CSA) to assess and collect maintenance. For impartial information on the maintenance choices available to parents, ring Child Maintenance Options on 0800 988 0988. Whilst, as a general rule, income for a child where parents cannot agree is calculated by the CSA, there are occasions where the court will make an order. For example, if your child attends a boarding school and there are school fees to be paid then you might apply for an order for financial provision to be made by a parent of the child for payment of these fees.

Appointment of a guardian

A guardian appointed under this section will generally take over a parental responsibility for the child after the death of a parent. For example, if your niece/nephew has lost both their parents you might apply to be a guardian.