The break-up of a relationship is never easy, especially when there are children involved. I cannot stress enough how important it is for children to be provided with support from both parents during any separation. They should be shielded so far as possible from the hostility between you. This can sometimes be overlooked in the midst of bitterness, resentment or whilst trying to sort out practical matters such as logistics of separation and finances. If you’re going through a separation, it’s really important that you both stop to and think about what’s in the child’s best interest. You should try to minimise the impact of the breakdown of the relationship. Children should not be used to “get at” the other parent nor should they be used as spies, messengers or weapons in an acrimonious separation. I have seen it all too often where one party is so incensed by their former partner’s behaviour that the children are kept away from their other parent for purely selfish reasons. It may sound trite, but there are always two sides to a story and to alienate a child from their parent can be harmful to the child.
I encourage parties, where appropriate, to try and reach an agreement on a routine for the children to spend time with both parents. Structure and stability are key. Your children’s lives would have already changed. It’s not about winners and losers; it’s about agreeing a structure and routine that meets the children’s needs. If possible, try to maintain a civil relationship with the child’s parent. You will probably have no choice but to have some sort of ongoing relationship whilst the children are in their minority. Co-parenting and good communication is essential.
What if you can’t agree on the arrangements for the children?
If you are unable to reach an agreement, it is possible to make an application to the Court for a “Child Arrangements Order”. This regulates the arrangements for the children. It can include setting out with whom the children shall live (sometimes there are shared living arrangements), times & dates of contact with the non- resident parent and other related matters. If there is a dispute on major decisions such as schooling, taking the children on holiday, medical treatment or religion, it is possible to make an application to the Court for a Specific Issue Order or a Prohibited Steps Order for these issues to be determined and decided by the Court.
What factors will the Court take into consideration?
When making a decision, the Court must consider the ‘welfare checklist’. The factors within the checklist include:
(a) The ascertainable wishes and feelings with the child concerned, considered in the light of his age and understanding;
(b) His physical, emotional and educational needs;
(c) The likely effect on him of any change in his circumstances;
(d) His age, sex, background and any characteristics of his which the Court considers relevant;
(e) Any harm which he has suffered or which he is at risk of suffering;
(f) How capable each parent (or other relevant person) is of meeting his needs.
When an application is made to the Court, the children’s wishes and feelings are relevant depending on their age, understanding and circumstances. This does not mean that the Court will leave everything in the hands of the children but that their views, when appropriate may be taken into consideration along with all the other relevant factors referred to above.
If you find that you need advice from a family solicitor, please don’t hesitate to contact us directly on 0208-882-9850 where we can offer you a Fixed Fee Initial Consultation for £75 plus VAT.
Please also look at our website: www.cpfamilylaw.co.uk where you will find lots of helpful information.