When it comes to issues with family or children, knowledge of child law is absolutely essential.

At Optimal Solicitors, we cover legal issues that may arise following relationship breakdowns as well as Local Authority intervention and child protection issues. These laws are principally governed by the Children Act 1989.

 The 1989 Act covers both private and public law relating to the care and upbringing of children. It also covers provisional services available to children and their families. Family law can present many challenges, the most significant of which is parental responsibility.



S.3(1) of the Children Act 1989 governs all the rights, duties, responsibility, and authority which a parent lawfully has in relation to a child and his/her property:

Parental responsibility covers circumstances such as:

  • The right to decide matters such as choosing a child’s school.
  • The right to decide the child’s religious education, to the extent that, as a parent with parental responsibility, you could request a child is excluded from religious prayers at a school or other educational institution.
  • The right to make decisions on medical treatment. Children who are aged 16 or over can consent to any medical treatment themselves. In most cases, children below the age of 16 would require the consent of those with parental responsibility. However, in life threatening circumstances, consent may not be required, even from those with parental responsibility.

It’s important to remember that parental responsibility is not limited to these three factors above. There are a variety of rights which can be exercised by parents with parental responsibility.

Being the biological parent does not always mean you have parental responsibility. For example, a child’s mother would have parental responsibility automatically, but she would lose this if the child were legally adopted.

As per S.2 (1) of the Children Act 1989, if a child’s parents are married, the father will also have parental responsibility. This would continue even after divorce.

However, if the child’s parents are not legally married to each other at the time of the birth, then the father would not have automatic parental responsibility, unless in the following circumstances:

  1. His name is on the birth certificate;
  2. By making a parental responsibility agreement with the child’s mother;
  3. If a parental responsibility order is made by the Court under S.4(1) Children Act 1989;
  4. By marrying the child’s mother.

There are other ways in which individuals other than parents can apply for parental responsibility.


Child law can also assist you in domestic and family situations such as contact order and residence orders. These are known as ‘Section 8’ orders.

Until 22nd April 2014, these existed individually as contact, specific issue order and residence orders. These have now grouped and are classed as ‘child arrangements orders’.

  • A contact order would allow the person living with the child to decide who the child could visit, contact or stay with, as named in the order.
  • A residence order would decide which person the child would live with. This was and is still beneficial, particularly if you’re in difficult circumstances.

Overall, child arrangement orders can deal with a range of scenarios that you may come across. For example you might have a specific issue that has arisen in connection with the parental responsibility for a child.

This would cover disputes over common issues such as which school the child should go to, or which religion they should follow, or whether they should receive a particular form of medical treatment.



Section 8 orders (other than child arrangements orders, specifying living circumstances) normally last until the child reaches the age of 16. They will only go beyond this in exceptional circumstances (S.9(7) of the Children’s Act 1989). This may extend up to the age of 18 years old.

In circumstances where your former spouse may refuse to follow an existing court order, or if you wish to modify your current child support plan, you can reach out for support by discussing the issue with an experienced family solicitor. A family solicitor can represent you and make sure your children’s best interests remain a central focal point in all court proceedings.

As child law exists for assistance, guidance, and protection, there are strong considerations given to child welfare. This includes a child’s physical, intellectual, emotional and social welfare.

In circumstances where there is no obvious or direct conflict between separated parents, there should be arrangements for children to remain in contact with a ‘left-behind’ parent and extended family. These should have a solid legal foundation that will be recognised by the legal systems of all relevant countries and legislation. They would empower you and perhaps even give you recognised rights to have contact with your child.

A key element of this is your freedom to voice your opinion, whatever your relationship with the child. However, this does not necessarily guarantee you the automatic right for this. Depending on your role, you may need to ask for leave. Either way, we can assist you with this to get the most positive outcome possible.



Our child(ren)’s law solicitors have extensive knowledge and experience. We can assist you in:

  • Child living arrangements
  • Child arrangement orders
  • Parental responsibility orders or agreements
  • Prohibited step orders
  • Emergency orders
  • Special issues orders.

Whatever the situation, your child(ren)’s best interests should be at the forefront of any decision. We aim to make the process as easy for you as possible

We can assist you regarding your children and advise you on the procedures available. For additional information on child-related matters, please contact a member of our family law team on 0161 250 7771 or drop us an enquiry using our online contact form.