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What plans should I make for my children when I divorce?

View profile for Sam Miles
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A separation or divorce will be an emotional, confusing and stressful time for any couple, but these feelings are heightened when there are children involved.  Parents will need to make plans with their children’s best interests at heart, remain aware that their children could pick up on negativity caused by disagreements, and recognise that they may even feel responsible for their split.  Sam Miles, Family Partner, reviews here what parents need to consider when it comes to arrangements for their children.

There are a number of areas you will need to consider for your children, including:

  1. Who they will live with – there are a couple of options here; the child either lives with Mum or Dad and the other parent spends time with their child, or parents have shared care where their child spends time living with each parent – this may not necessarily be an equal amount of time, it all depends what works best for the family.  It may be beneficial to ask your child about their wishes; some may prefer to spend an equal amount of time staying in each parent’s home, while others may wish for a more permanent base with one parent.  It’s important to remember that stability is the key for children in this situation.
  2. How arrangements for the children to spend time with each parent will be organised, including the location for handovers, timings, and arrangements for communication between the children and the parent in between visits.
  3. How will their lives be financed - parents will have to consider their new budget once they are living apart, and one parent may be required to pay child maintenance to the other parent.
  4. Whether they stay at the same school, and if there are school fees, how these will be funded – you should also consider telling the school about your separation; for administration purposes and also so they are aware of any behaviour changes in your child, and if they can offer further support.
  5. When and where they will see their grandparents and other family members, from both Mum and Dad’s family.

How can Family Mediation help in a divorce?

If all attempts have been made by the parents to come to agreements but there is still no resolution then Family Mediation could have a role to play.  “If parents can’t agree and decide they should go to Court, they will legally need to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting before they can do so,” explains Sam.  “It is in this meeting that an independent Family Mediator will meet with both parties and ascertain whether Mediation is suitable for their situation and could bring about a resolution.  If Mediation is deemed unsuitable then the matter will proceed to Court, however the process has proven successful in bringing about a resolution when one did not seem possible.”

Family Mediation allows parents to come together in a neutral environment with an unbiased Family Mediator who can allow the parents to step back from their own feelings and put their children first.  Sam continues, “I recently qualified as a Child Inclusive Mediator, which allows me, with the parent’s permission, to also meet with the child involved to hear their views and concerns.  When presented to the parents, this can have a significant impact on their opinions and make them realise what consequences are arising from their actions.”

What does the Court consider in children arrangements?

If Family Mediation is not deemed suitable, or on the rare occasions it is not successful, then when parents go to Court, the Judge will always put the child’s welfare at the forefront.  Only in exceptional circumstances will the Judge not want to keep up an ongoing relationship with both parents and will consider the following points:

  • The wishes and feelings of the child
  • The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs
  • The likely effect on the child of any change in their circumstances
  • The child’s age, sex, background and any characteristics which the Court considers relevant
  • Any harm the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
  • How capable each parent is of meeting the child’s needs

Taking children on holiday when divorced

“Another question that we see arise often is whether parents can take their children on holidays abroad,” explains Sam.  “There are a few different scenarios in this case; if a Child Arrangements Order has been granted from Court which states that the child is to live with one parent, then that parent may take the child abroad for up to four weeks without permission of the other person with parental responsibility, as long as it does not conflict with time that parent would normally be spending with the child.  If permission is not granted, then the parent could ask for a Specific Issue Order from Court, and likewise the parent not giving consent could apply to Court for a Prohibited Steps Order; however both of these steps can be lengthy and costly and should always be considered as a last resort.”

Sam concludes, “The most important thing during a divorce is to re-inforce with your child that the separation is not their fault, and that they will still see their other parent and family.  While you may be hurt by the actions of your spouse, negative feelings will cause a lasting impact on your child and they will naturally feel loyal towards both of you.  Any attempts to turn them against your ex will inevitably leave them feeling torn, confused and hurt.”

If you are considering divorce and have questions about how Family Mediation could help, you can contact Sam on 02380 717431 or email familyenquiries@warnergoodman.co.uk.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.