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5 most frequently asked questions by parents who are separated

1.       How long can I take my children on holidays for?


With the other parent’s consent, you can take the children for as long as agreed

Without the other parent’s consent, were either parent or both parents hold a Residence Order, the children can only be taken out of the United Kingdom for up to 28 days provided this does not affect        the other parent’s scheduled contact.

Without the other parent’s consent, were there are no Orders, you will need to seek an Order from the Court for specified Holiday contact


2.       Can I change my children’s names?


Yes if you are the Mother and the child’s Father is not recorded on the birth certificate – please contact your local General Registry Office for further details

No if you are the Mother and the child’s Father is recorded on the birth certificate – you will need either the Father’s permission or a court Order to permit any changes.


3.       Do I have parental responsibility?


Yes if you are the Mother

Yes if you are the Father and recorded on the child’s birth certificate

No if you are the Father and not recorded on the child’s birth certificate – you will have to apply to the Court for a Parental Responsibility Order. Only Fathers/Step Fathers can apply for this Order.


4.       What can I get with parental responsibility?


This is simply a Right to be updated and informed.  It allows you to access information about your child from professionals (e.g schools and doctors) directly.  It also encourages Mothers to discuss with Fathers important events in a child’s life (e.g First Communion/Baptism, school selection etc)


5.       Do I always have to go to Court to get contact/residence


Not necessarily.  Our laws under the Children (NI) Order 1995 encourage parents to come to agreements regarding the children and a Court Order is seen as a last resort and only when in the interests of the child.

The Attorney General launches his second series of seminars in relation to Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
~ Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Following on from the success of the first human rights themed Seminar Series, the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, in conjunction with the NI Young Bar Association, NI Young Solicitor’s Association and the Public Prosecution Service, has launched a second seminar series. This second series aims to provide for a multi-faceted discussion of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The first seminar took place on 13 March 2012. Anne-Louise Livesey, Solicitor and Principal Legal Officer in the Attorney General’s Office, Stephen Gilmore BL, Sarah McKeown, of McKeown & Co Solicitors and Michael Agnew, Acting Assistant Director in the PPS, spoke about Article 6 as it relates to delay in the criminal process.

Today saw the second in the series with “Fair Trial v Free Press” the topic for discussion. Mark McGarrity BL opened the seminar by discussing the issues that arise when public figures make comments which may be in breach of the presumption of innocence guaranteed by Article 6(2). He was followed by Martin Hardy, Barrister and Senior Public Prosecutor, who spoke about applications to stay criminal trials following prejudicial publicity. Joe McCrisken, Barrister and Acting Senior Principal Legal Officer in the Attorney General’s Office then spoke about the Contempt of Court Act 1981 and the balance to be struck between Article 6 and 10 of the Convention. Kathy Mathews, of Johnstons Solicitors, closed what was an entertaining discussion, with a presentation about press responsibility.

Opening the Lid on Grandparents Rights

At McKeown and Company Solicitors, we are frequently asked by grandparents – what rights have I to see my grandchildren?

Answer:  As a grandparent you do not have an automatic right to see your grandchildren (like a mother/father would have) but it is possible for you to ask permission from our Court to bring an application for a Contact Order  which gives you the right to see your grandchildren by setting out the days and times for contact.   To get permission from the Court you have to confirm the following:

  1. You are the grandparent of the grandchildren and you have been involved in your grandchildren’s lives on a regular basis
  2. The type of contact you are looking –  in person, by letter or by telephone and how often
  3. Your request for contact would not harm or potentially harm the grandchildren’s well-being in any way

If you are successful in getting permission from the Court to bring your contact application then our Courts will look at whether the contact you want is in the best interests of the grandchildren.  When looking at what is in the best interests of the grandchildren our Courts look at the ages of the grandchildren, their wishes and feelings (if old enough), the parents views on your request as well as how your contact would impact on the grandchildren.

At McKeown and Company Solicitors we are seeing more and more grandparents now obtaining these Orders and the permission stage is not as daunting or as difficult as you may think provided you get the right legal advice at an early stage.  If you are facing difficulties seeing your grandchildren please email us at for further advice.