Separating with Children
The breakdown of a relationship can be a difficult time with emotions running high and uncertainty about the future. For separating couples who have children, there is the inevitable question of what the future arrangements for the children will be. Many parents will be able to agree how to manage their separation and the future arrangements for their children but for some this will be a difficult topic. Hatch Brenner Family Law Solicitor Richard Dilks outlines some important things for separating parents to consider:
The Children Act 1989
Some parents who are not able to agree on the future arrangements for their children will find themselves asking the Family Court to resolve their differences by making an application for a Child Arrangements Order under the Children Act 1989. The Family Court has various powers available and can make orders that set out who children will live with and how much time they should spend with the other parent.
The best interests of the children
When the Family Court is asked to make a decision in relation to the future arrangements for children, the children’s welfare is the most important consideration. Any decision has to be based on what is considered to be in the best interest of the children. The Children Act 1989 states that the Court should presume that the involvement of a parent in a child’s life, unless the contrary is shown, will further the child’s welfare. However, involvement can be anything from indirect involvement to direct involvement, but no specific division of time is set out in the Children Act.
Spending regular time with both parents
Research has shown that most children think that the parent who doesn’t live with them is still an important part of their life and that most children will cope better with the separation of their parents if they spend regular time with both of their parents, as long as it is safe to do so.
Some important things for separating parents to consider are:
- Communication – This can be difficult when a relationship is breaking down but being able to communicate in relation to the future arrangements for your children can be important in helping you to put in place arrangements that will meet the needs of your children. If communication is difficult then consider engaging the services of a family mediator. The mediator can help guide your discussions and keep the conversation focused on what is in the best interest of your children.
- Be Realistic – Try to keep in mind your children’s needs and routines and also the demands on your own time such as work commitments or the distance between your homes. The focus should be on the quality of the time that your children spend with each parent rather than on the amount of time.
- Take Early Legal Advice – By gaining an understanding of your legal position and how the Court may deal with any dispute involving your children you will have a better idea of how the Court may deal with any areas of dispute. This could help you avoid having to use the Court process.
- Avoid Exposing Children to Conflict – Research shows that most children want to spend time with both parents and that they usually enjoy spending time with both parents. However, children can also find it distressing if arrangements do not work or if they find themselves exposed to parental conflict and torn between their parents or used as a go-between.
Richard Dilks is very experienced in advising parents relating to Separation, Divorce, Civil Partnership Dissolution and Children Disputes. He can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01603 660 811.