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Family Law Specialist Cara Nuttall on Children Law in light of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise's Marriage Breakdown

Amongst the on-going flurry of further reports and speculation about the impending legal battle between Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise following the Marriage Breakdown are numerous allegations made today that Katie has filed an 'emergency application' in regard to arrangements for Suri, which would see the couple in court within the next 2 weeks. At the time of writing it is unclear if there is any truth in the reports and indeed, it appears that lawyers on both sides have dismissed the claims as inaccurate.

Many commentators believe that it is arrangements for Suri, and more specifically arrangements in regard to her integration into Scientology, which have been the catalyst for the split and that it is likely to be in regard to the arrangements for their only child that the legal battle becomes particularly hard-fought.

In England, heavy emphasis is put on parents avoiding getting involved in litigation regarding their Children unless there is no alternative, and parents are expected to make attempts to arrive at a solution by agreement before issuing an application to the court, unless there is a genuinely emergency, such as a risk of physical or emotional harm or abduction. This includes a duty to consider whether Mediation is an appropriate alternative. Urgent court appointments will only be allocated to cases in which there are serious issues, otherwise the wait is usually in the region of 6-8 weeks for a first hearing.

Many people have unrealistic expectations about how quickly the court can and will deal with Children disputes, and are often disappointed to discover that proceedings can be considerably slower than they would like. As such, use of alternative methods to resolve disputes between parents can often in fact be quicker. In addition, reaching an agreement, whether directly, through Solicitors, Mediators or other professionals allows parents to control the outcome, and so the future arrangements, rather than having something imposed on them by a court. It can also allow for more creative solutions and greater flexibility than can be achieved by a court order. Alternative ways of resolving disputes are not right for every case, but for many can offer an attractive alternative to court and are always worth considering. A good Family Law Solicitor who deals with Children Law can advise on the full range of options available, and the pros and cons of each and help agree which strategy is likely to be most effective in resolving matters.