Family law

Children's law and separation

Separation and divorce can be incredibly hard for children to deal with. Our family law experts are here to help you reach a fair and amicable agreement over child arrangements when you separate.

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What happens to children after separation?

When parents separate, it can be a very distressing time for children. emotional issues need to be your first concern, starting with working out exactly how you are going to break the news to them.

Parental separation is confusing, upsetting and stressful for children; meaning that whatever disagreements the parents have over other aspects of their relationship, they need to work together to make their new child arrangements as easy as possible for children to accept and adjust to.

In a best case scenario, where both parents can agree on a solution for issues such as where children will live, what school they will go to and how often they get to see the non-resident parent, there may be need to deal with legal formalities.

However, where an agreement can't be reached, our experienced family lawyers are here to help and advise you, and in some cases, act for you in court. Having said that, the courts prefer parents to make their own child arrangements wherever possible.

What does the law say about child arrangements after separation?

While family court judges are able to rule on child arrangements in the event that separated parents can't agree, this isn't usually the best solution. That's because going to court takes control away from both parents, often leading to child arrangement orders being made by the court that neither parent is particularly happy with.

For this reason, the law says that when separated parents can't agree on child arrangements, they must attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to see if you can reach agreement with the help of an impartial and professional mediator.

Only once mediation has been tried and found to be unsuccessful can you seek a child arrangement order in the family court. This is a court order that is binding on both of you, and which will set out the times and the days that children must spend with each parent.

If you are tempted to make a court application without trying to agree the arrangements with the other parent, beware. The starting point for all court-ordered child arrangements is that the child should spend time with both parents, unless it would clearly have an adverse effect on the child's welfare.

With this in mind, if you are considering making a court application to obtain a child arrangements order, you may find it useful to speak to one of our experienced family lawyers first to make sure you understand the risks as well as the possible rewards of asking the court to make a final child arrangements order.

How can I avoid child court proceedings after separation?

At Slater and Gordon, our family lawyers are experienced and know that disputes about children are almost always better settled without the need for court proceedings. Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, such as when one parent is violent or abusive; but where you are both reasonable people – and loving parents – we may suggest a number of alternatives to help you avoid court proceedings, including:

Mediation: Where you can meet with professional mediators in a number of ways; using them as go-betweens in sole mediation; having them in the same room in joint mediation; and occasionally using shuttle mediation, where you and your partner are in adjacent rooms, but don't have to come face-to-face.

Child inclusive mediation: Where trained mediators will meet with the child or children to hear their views, then advocate for them in a discussion with the parents. This can help to keep children out of any situations that could feel confrontational, or where they might be afraid to say how they feel for fear of offending one parent or both. It also helps to ensure that any decisions are informed by the wishes of the child.

Collaborative law: Where both parents will appoint their own collaboratively trained lawyer, who will advise them and also attend four-way meetings where both parents have the support and advice of a friendly lawyer by their side.

Negotiation through lawyers: Where you will instruct a family lawyer to negotiate with your ex partner's lawyer, but without making a court application. This route can be highly effective, because skilled negotiators are more practised in recognising where compromises can be made that can be advantageous to both parties.

Legal assistance for rights to children after separation

So if you are separated and struggling to reach an amicable child arrangement with your ex-partner, always remember that while the courts are there to help, they should be seen as a last resort, and you should only take this step after every other avenue for discussion and negotiation has failed.

To talk to one of our experienced family lawyers, simply phone 0330 041 5869 or contact us online today and we will call you.

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