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Child arrangements following divorce - crucial things to consider

One of the toughest things about a separation is making those crucial decisions about children, from where they’ll live to how often they’ll see each parent. Through their extensive experience in handling divorce cases of all kinds, our family law solicitors know just how difficult it can be to put emotions and differences aside to do what’s best for the children.

If you’re currently in the process of getting divorced or dissolving a civil partnership, there are certain very important things you need to consider. You’re no doubt well aware that you need to put the interests of your children first, but there are some points you may not have considered.

    1. Just how important it is to have an experienced family law expert on your team

Navigating children’s issues can be tricky to say the least, so choose family law solicitors who’re known for their work in divorce cases involving children. You need someone who’s been through the process with clients before and understands what you’re going through, who can use skill and sensitivity to guide you to the right resolution for your family.

    2. Remember the big three

There are three major issues to decide when it comes to child arrangements after separation. These include:

  • Where children will live
  • How both parents will continue to pay for all the things the children need
  • How you’ll ensure that children spend enough time with both parents and, crucially, when and where this will happen.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to answering these important questions, and there are likely to be many other smaller issues to decide too. However, these three considerations are an excellent starting point. Our family law solicitors know that sorting out child arrangements can seem incredibly daunting and confusing at the start, but getting clear plans in place for these three things will give you a very strong foundation.

    3. Mediation can be hugely helpful

Not all couples agree on every matter relating to child arrangements following divorce or separation. In fact, you may completely disagree. However, it’s important to realise that even if you have very different opinions about what should happen, there’s no immediate need to rush into fighting it out in a courtroom.

Many family law solicitors, including some of the Slater and Gordon team, are members of an organisation known as Resolution, which aims to find alternatives to litigation (legal action) to resolve family disputes. Resolution champions non-confrontational methods of resolving issues, which include mediation. This process involves the couple sitting down with a trained, experienced mediator to discuss and hopefully resolve issues.

Mediation provides a safe, calm and measured space in which to address conflict and try to see things from the other person’s perspective. It can help to clarify what’s really in the best interests of your children, and what views and opinions are borne out of a testing and emotional time in both of your lives.

    4. You might need to get a Child Arrangements Order from the court

If you and your former partner can’t agree on the best arrangements for your children after you separate, you may need a court to step in. Family law solicitors will usually recommend that you try mediation and constructive negotiation techniques to find a resolution to the dispute, but this doesn’t work in every case.

In situations like this, you might need to get a Child Arrangements Order. Applied for by either parent, the first stage of the process involves a court attempting to encourage the parents to reconsider whether they can reach an agreement outside of the courtroom. If not, further hearings are scheduled, witnesses called and the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (commonly known as CAFCASS) may also be called upon to relay the child’s views to the court. A decision will be arrived at stipulating certain conditions about child arrangements for your family.

Remember that the law says the courts shouldn’t make orders about child arrangements unless there’s a clear reason to do so. The courts always prefer parents to agree on decisions themselves. If it’s clear that all efforts at mediation and non-legal routes have failed, and communication has perhaps broken down, only then will the courts step in. A Child Arrangement Order will be made when it’s clearly better for the child for this to happen.

    5. Compromise and agreement now can make for better parenting in the future

If you and your ex-partner are at loggerheads now over how best to sort out child arrangements, what will happen in the future? If you do manage to reach an agreement but end up there on bad terms, this doesn’t bode well for the future co-parenting relationship. If one side is unhappy with the arrangement, will this manifest in resentment and animosity when sharing parenting? Needless to say, this is a less than ideal situation for your children. Keeping on good terms with your ex for the sake of your children can be incredibly difficult, especially during a messy divorce, but it’s highly beneficial if you can. You may need to make compromises and perhaps back down a little over certain issues; ultimately though, it’s for the best interests of your children. It can also make life easier for you (and your ex) in the future.

    6. Where to turn for help with child arrangements

If you’re getting divorced and are struggling to come to an agreement about child arrangements with your partner, you don’t have to handle the situation alone. Consult one of our specialist family law solicitors for expert help and advice. The Slater and Gordon team are highly experienced in all legal matters involving children. We’ll always treat you and your family with care and sensitivity, and share your goal to find the best solution for the benefit of your children.

Please call us on freephone 0808 175 8000 for advice you can trust on children’s issues, divorce and other areas of family law.

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