If you are in need of legal advice for a family issue, you are likely to have lots of questions. These are some questions that our clients frequently ask.
Adopting a child gives the adoptive parents the full rights and responsibilities of a birth parent. As such, in the event of a divorce, proceedings in relation to the child will be the same as those concerning care arrangements for biological children.As adoptive parents, you will need to agree with whom the child shall live and contact arrangements. All decisions regarding the child’s health, education and welfare will need to be made jointly.
To be able to adopt a child from abroad you need to be eligible to adopt from both within the UK and from the chosen overseas country. Adoption laws can differ significantly between counties, which means that whilst you may be eligible to adopt from one country, you might not be able to adopt from another. If you live in the UK, not all countries will be available for you to adopt from, either because a country does not allow international adoption, or because the UK restricts adoption from a country.
In the event that you and your partner are in the process of adopting a child from overseas, but you are concerned about your relationship and the effect of any possible separation on that adoption, it is important to be aware of your options.Where an adoption has not yet been finalised, a divorce by the prospective adoptive parents may affect the finalisation of the adoption. If the birth parents’ rights have not yet been terminated, there is a risk that they might object to their child being adopted by a single parent, or by a couple in dispute. If their parental rights have been terminated, it is the court who will consider the impact of a divorce on the adoption, and who will have final approval.
If you bring a child from abroad into the UK without having complied with the relevant regulations, you must notify your local authority of your intention to adopt that child as soon as you arrive in the UK so as to avoid criminal sanctions.Whether you are worried about your legal status, or whether you have already been accused of not having complied with the regulations, it is vital to seek legal representation. Vardags can act quickly and effectively to help you secure yours and your child’s legal status. Alongside our family lawyers, we have top criminal defence lawyers in house to defend you in criminal proceedings, should it become necessary.
If you have moved abroad with your children without your ex’s consent, you could be at risk of being accused of child abduction, which is both a criminal and civil offence. There are serious criminal proceedings that could involve you being extradited to be brought before the criminal court of England and Wales.However, the seriousness of these consequences can be mitigated if you take swift action to contact your ex and resolve the situation. Whatever your reasons for taking your child abroad, the faster you act the less likely the situation will result in onerous orders against you.
The British High Court is obliged to return any children who are suspected of having been abducted. Child abduction is taken very seriously and can lead to criminal penalties as well as civil proceedings. If you are accused of abducting your children, it is vital that you seek specialist legal advice urgently.
If you are named as the person that your children live with under a child arrangements order you may take your children abroad for up to 28 days without requiring permission from your ex or the court. Even if there is no child arrangement order in place and you have taken your children away on a short break, do not panic. The prompt return of your children to the jurisdiction should resolve matters.
If you are aware of rumours about the potential conduct of your child, it is never too early to act. Allegations can be made, for a number of reasons, long after the event and so it is always advisable to seek representation as soon as you become aware of any potential misconduct, even if it has not yet progressed to a formal allegation. In this way, you can be supported to gather evidence and be prepared for any future allegations should they arise.
Although the prospect of international adoption can be exciting, choosing which country to adopt your child from can be a daunting process. At Vardags we can advise you as to the process of international adoption depending on which country you want to adopt from, including whether an adoption order made in a particular country will be valid in England. We can put you in touch with Adoption Agencies who can guide you through the initial stages of that decision, whilst we assist with the legal implications alongside that.
Relationships between adoptive parents and birth parents can vary. It is important to appreciate what each party is looking for in that relationship: whether it ends when the adoption is finalised, whether it continues through the child’s life, or perhaps neither party wishes for a relationship at all.Should the relationship become difficult it may be worth considering setting out in writing the expectations of each party. This will help to establish how matters are to progress and reminds each party of their reasons for entering into the adoption.In the event that the relationship deteriorates significantly, it is essential to seek the assistance of a third party.
Whether the child you have adopted from abroad will be recognised as legally yours in the UK depends on various factors. For example, if you adopt a child from a country that is a signatory to the Hague Convention 1993 through a Convention Adoption, then that adoption will be recognised in all 76 Hague Convention countries. An adoption that is classed as an ‘overseas’ adoption, and recognised as a full adoption in the UK may be registered in the Adopted Children Register.
Generally speaking, cohabitees do not have rights over each others’ property. You may, however, have claim if you have contributed to the joint purchase of a house (even if it is your partner’s sole name) or you have carried out substantial work on it. If you have relied on your partner’s promises that they will look after you or house you, then you might also be able to claim.
If you fear violence or are subject to violence or abuse, the court can and will protect you. For victims of domestic abuse (be it physical, verbal, or emotional harm) the court can make two types of order – “non-molestation” orders and “occupation” orders each giving you comprehensive legal protection. Non-molestation orders are supported by criminal sanctions. Breaking one is a criminal offence, and your partner can be arrested immediately if they breach the terms, even if they have committed no other crime. These orders are available whether you have been married to your ex-partner or not.
Often couples try to make child arrangements work between themselves, without recourse to the courts. Sadly, this does not always happen successfully, with the resident parent preventing the children from seeing their other parent or limiting contact. If this has happened to you, Vardags can help.As experienced family lawyers, Vardags can help you establish a regular system of contact with your children either through negotiating with your ex-partner or by applying to the court.
As international family lawyers, we regularly come across families who live across multiple jurisdictions whilst enjoying a happy family life.If your ex is taking your children abroad, and you consent to that move, it will be necessary for you and your ex to discuss the practicalities of contact arrangements. To ensure regular and good quality contact, it is highly advisable that you reach a formal agreement with your ex in advance of the move. This will help pre-empt any conflicts or issues that may arise in the future.
If you move abroad and your ex has or is threatening to cut off financial support you can apply to enforce an existing maintenance decision.The UK has international agreements concerning maintenance with more than 100 countries. These reciprocal arrangements mean that an order can be registered and enforced in every one of these countries.
If your ex wants to take your children abroad but you don’t agree, their only alternative will be to seek the court’s permission in the form of an order for permission to relocate permanently with the children. Without this permission, your ex could be committing a serious criminal offence.
Though uncommon, false allegations of domestic abuse can be extremely distressing. As leading family lawyers, Vardags can help you to defend against such claims and put forward your case.If false allegations are not firmly refuted, the consequences can be very serious. An occupation or non-molestation order could lead to you being removed from your home or even arrested by the police. These orders can also have significant impact on your professional life and be used to limit the time you spend with your children after separation.
Bringing a child into the UK for the purposes of adoption is a criminal offence, punishable with up to 12 month’s imprisonment and/or a fine. In order to bring a child into the UK for the purposes of adoption, there are strict regulations that need to be complied with, preferably in advance of bringing the child in. It is vital to seek legal advice prior to bringing a child who you wish to adopt into the UK.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as common law marriage and a former cohabitee has no automatic rights to a share in your property. Sometimes, however, a successful claim can arise under trust and property law.
If your partner is breaking an existing order, there are numerous ways of enforcing it. The court can divert a portion of their salary directly to you (garnishee order), give you a charge over property or shares or even transfer bank accounts over to you. If your partner willfully and deliberately refuses to satisfy an order, this can amount to contempt – the court can fine and even jail them for this.
Schedule 1 of the Children’s Act allows for a parent to seek financial support for their children from the “non-resident” parent. This includes regular payments of child maintenance but can also extend to providing a house for the child and paying other expenses such as school fees.
A child adopted from a country that is signatory to the Hague Convention 1993 through what is known as a ‘Convention Adoption’ will automatically acquire British nationality. However, a child adopted via adoption that is classed as ‘overseas’ will not. In the latter scenario, you will need to have a clear immigration plan in place. Conversely, a foreign child adopted in the UK through the domestic adoption process will acquire British nationality as part of that process.
If you have an international lifestyle, being able to move around freely with your adopted child will be a high priority. Whether you have legal parental status internationally will depend on whether the adoption order you hold is recognisable in the countries you will reside in.With our international expertise we can offer you specialist legal advice as to the potential issues you may face in different jurisdictions, and how to overcome them. As many of our clients have international lifestyles, we experienced at dealing with the legal complexities arising from the application of UK law internationally.
If you have any reason to suspect that your ex has abducted your children it will be important to take immediate action. Child abduction cases are extremely time sensitive and the faster you act the more likely you are to ensure your children’s swift return.
Whilst there are perfectly innocent reasons why your ex might not yet have returned with your children from Britain, it could also be a real cause for concern. In the first instance, it will be necessary to contact your ex, the hotel or the last place they were known to be and any family or friends who might know of their whereabouts.
If you are currently making child support payments, this obligation will continue even after your ex moves abroad with your children. Child support will continue to be enforceable in the courts of England and Wales and in over 100 countries with reciprocal arrangements.
Some adoption orders are automatically recognised in England and Wales, such as those made in Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, Channel Islands, ‘overseas adoptions’ and adoptions under the Hague Convention 1993. Any other adoption made abroad will only be recognisable if it satisfies common law criteria. If a foreign adoption is neither automatically recognised, nor recognisable under the common law, then a domestic adoption order will need to be obtained.
Even if you are not married, you are entitled to support from the other parent of your children. Under Schedule 1 of the Children Act, you can obtain both ongoing maintenance and lump sums towards the costs of bringing up children.The level of provision will depend on your needs and your partner’s financial position. If there is money available, they can be required to meet expenses such as school fees and even provide a house for you and the children.
It is not uncommon for spouses to want to relocate when the marriage is ending. As a newly-single parent you may need to move closer to your work or nearer to the support of your family.If you want to move your children abroad, and the other parent does not agree, you will need the permission of the court, so called “leave to remove”.
If your children live with your ex under a child arrangements order, then your ex may take your children out of England and Wales for up to 28 days without your consent. Where there is no child arrangements order in force, or where your ex wishes to take your child on holiday for longer than a month, they will require your written consent or they will have to obtain permission from the court.
If you are named as the person that a child lives with under a child arrangements order you may take your children on holiday abroad for up to 28 days without requiring permission from your ex. However, if there is no order in place or you wish to take your child out of the country for longer, you will require their written consent.
Whether it is due to a downturn in your business, ill-health or retirement, you might find that the maintenance payments are taking a disproportionate amount of your income. If that is the case, you can ask the court for a downward variation of the child maintenance which you pay.
If your ex opposes your plan to move abroad with your children, there are numerous strategies that can be deployed to overcome their opposition.While the court will be unable to stop you from relocating, it’s primary concern will be whether it is in your children’s best interests to do so, and whether there is an appropriate strategy in place for the children to maintain regular contact with the other parent.