My Interview With A Family Law Solicitor: Your Questions Answered

8th January 2015
As you know I recently made a Will to ensure my son’s birth father (aka Sperm Donor/SD) would have a much lesser chance of becoming the resident parent in the event of my death.

Christmas can be an awful time for separated families, especially when it comes to working out who the children will spend time with if both parents are in their lives, but it can also be hard for lone parents like myself as we have no support from the other parent, and we have to face the hard emotions that Christmas and all it’s ‘family’ messages brings with it.

To help separated and divorced parents have a stress-free Christmas, The Co-operative Legal Services have produced a free guide with helpful tips and advice on the issues parents need to consider. You can view the guide here.

co-operative legal services jenny beck
Family Law Solicitor Jenny Beck

The Co-Operative Legal Services also gave me the chance to question Divorce and Family Law Expert Jenny Beck which I of course jumped at the chance to do. These questions have come from some of the online single parent forums I am part of, as I wanted to ensure that I was able to cover as many ‘situations’ that lone parents can encounter as possible.

And here it is…

1. I’ve been separated for last 3 years, and my ex now has new partner who is pregnant, due in May. Would it be more beneficial financially for me and my daughter if the divorce happened now, before the baby is born? Would financial rights be affected once the other child is born?

This depends on your individual circumstances. I can’t see how the timing of the divorce has any material impact on the finances, however, the birth of the new baby might. It’s worth understanding about whether you have agreed child maintenance.

2. I would love to know what would happen with regards to my children if I become too ill to care for them or died. I was told before they would go to their dad but that was 8 years ago. He has had no contact with them in over 6 years now. He was violent and abusive in front of the children when they were younger. They are now 6,8 and 10. Would they get a say in what they wanted? Older two don’t want contact with him youngest he has never met. Would a Will stand if I put in there for them to live with my mum/sister ? Just would be nice to know for peace of mind

If there is a person alive with parental responsibility for that child, it will be them who would automatically look after the child.  So assuming their father has parental responsibility for the child, steps would need to be taken to ensure that your mother or sister can care for them without the need to make an obligation to court after your death.  The children, particularly the eldest, would have their views considered but given the abusive nature of your ex, it would be worth sorting the situation out properly to ensure that your children are not placed at risk.

3. How do I go about getting sole responsibility so they are unable to have my child unless I say it is ok? 

As a mother, you automatically have parental responsibility for your children. Extinguishing someone’s parental responsibility is extremely difficult to do and is only granted in extremely rare cases. All decisions about children are based on what is in their best interest and parental responsibility doesn’t give anybody the right to have children live with them.

4. Why do they think it is ok for NRPs partners to be legally acceptable with rights when the NRPs own parents don’t have that right and when anyone else working with children require a crb check? Isn’t it time something was done about this high risk area? Currently being abused by exes girlfriend and soon she could even be able to collect my child without any consent on my part. 

Anyone worried about a child being abused or placed at risk should contact the authorities immediately.
5. Can someone divorce you without consent after only a month separation? (my ex is threatening to divorce me now and leave me with half of his debt). 

It depends on the individual circumstances of the case. The ground for divorce is an irretrievable breakdown of a marriage and if your ex believes the marriage has irretrievably broken down, the length of separation might not be a relevant factor.
6. I would like to know what happens to the parent with care (who also has full residence) if they stop contact between a child and non-resident parent when it has been court ordered. If they could demonstrate that they are acting in the child’s best interests, not out of spite or using the child, what would be the consequences?  

Every decision the court makes is based on whether it is in the child’s best interest. If those best interests change, it may be that the court order needs to be revisited.

7. Can my ex make me sell the house I live in with the kids? She doesn’t pay anything at all but wants me to sell so she can have half the profit. Youngest child is 7 and we’re not married. 

It really depends on who owns the house. For unmarried families, the law is very different and I would assume you don’t have a living together agreement. It might be possible for you to make an application to stay in the home until your children reach majority (age 16).

8. If both parents are on the birth certificate do I need to give my ex the chance to see my child at xmas? To be honest – I really don’t want to speak to my ex! 

Being on the birth certificate and having parental responsibility doesn’t give any automatic rights to contact. However, the most important thing is to work out what is best for the children.  I understand that communication with an ex can be difficult. It is however, really important that you focus on what is in your child’s best interest and it’s more than likely that having both of you in their life will be beneficial. Perhaps you and your ex could come to an agreement as to how you will communicate with one another going forwards?

9. At what age would a father be allowed to have a child overnight? Father has only ever had child on his own for 2 hours maximum and always in my house (he lives 40 mins drive away and doesn’t have a car). Little one doesn’t like anyone other than me putting her to bed and when he tried to put her to bed in my house he had to admit defeat as she got upset. He sees her once a week for a few hours. Sometimes it’s once every 10 days depending on shifts and other commitments. He has never lived with her but is on the birth certificate. My daughter is 22 months old. 

There isn’t a specific age, however, you need to weigh up what is important in the longer term best interests for your daughter.  If she has a committed father, who wants to play an important role in her life, you may wish to encourage more regular contact so that she becomes comfortable with him and he becomes more confident when caring for her. This will lead to a happier situation all round and may even allow a break for you!

10. When is a child old enough to decide for themselves if they want to go away for weekends etc or not? If there is a contact order in place will this impact on that? 

Usually by the age of nine or ten, mature children are in a position to start inputting into decision making. However, if there is an order in place, a child’s reluctance to not go to contact will not automatically alter if a child does not want to go to contact you should discuss his or her reasons and try to find a way of promoting the relationship with their non-resident part which works for everybody.

11. How would one go about removing the parental responsibility of a father or at least minimising them who has a conviction for assault against his child? 

Revoking parental responsibility is only granted in really extreme circumstances. However, child protection is a paramount importance and you should seek immediate legal advice if you think a child is a risk.

12. Can I take my ex off the birth certificate if he hasn’t any contact with them or given any money? 


Follow me on Twitter, Pinterest or Facebook


  • Unknown

    10th January 2015 at 10:40 pm

    This is a brilliant, brilliant post. I have a few issues with some of this at the moment and it has answered a couple of my questions. Thank you for writing this and for sharing with #PoCoLo x

  • BakedPotatoMummy

    15th January 2015 at 9:48 pm

    A really interesting post. Lots of really useful information for anybody in this sort of difficult situation
    Thanks for linking up with #BinkyLinky

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Prev Post Next Post