Children Issues

If you are thinking about divorce or separation, one of your biggest worries is likely to be about your children: where they will live and how they will continue to have a meaningful relationship with both of you. Our experience is that, once parents put the needs of their children at the heart of the process, the other issues surrounding their separation are usually easier to resolve.

A useful set of considerations is provided by Resolution the family layers association:
• Conflict is the major cause of unhappiness and poor outcomes for children.
• Children need reassurance that their parents still love them.
• Children need reassurance that what has happened is not their fault.
• Children and young people need information about what is happening in their 
  family – in ways they can understand – and without a blow by blow account 
  or whose fault it is.
• Children don’t want to take sides –don’t make them.
• Children benefit from keeping contact with both parents – and their wider family.
• Children will tell each parent what they want to hear – opposing views are not
   uncommon.
• Children can cope with short-term disruption in their lives – as long as parents
   continue to support them.
• Children cope best when they can go easily between their two homes.
• Children need their parents to make decisions.

It is always preferable for parents to make decisions together, regarding the future arrangements for their children but sometimes this is not possible. If no agreement can be reached or one parent is being denied time with their children, then it may be appropriate to seek legal advice or make an application to the court for a Child Arrangements Order.

Before any application can be made, the parties have to consider whether Mediation is appropriate. If mediation is not appropriate or breaks down, then sometimes an application to the court is the only way of resolving matters. When making such an application, the court’s only consideration is what is in the best interest of the children.

Parental responsibility (PR) is defined as ‘all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, a parent of a child has in relation to the child and their property’. Mothers automatically have PR and as a father if you are or were married to the mother or named on the child’s birth certificate, (post December 2003), you will also have PR. That means, if you have PR, you are recognised in the eyes of the law as having all the legal powers to make appropriate decisions in relation to the upbringing of your child.

On a practical level it will, among other things, allow those with PR to contact their child’s GP to obtain or discuss medical treatment for their child, and to play an active role in their child’s education, giving them access to school reports and parents’ evenings. If you are a father and do not have PR, as the child was born pre December 2003, or you are not named on the birth certificate, then it is possible to acquire it either by agreement with the mother or an order of the court.

If you are going through difficulties in respect of making arrangements for your children and would benefit from more information or an initial free appointment please contact Celia Christie on 02476 55 31 81 or via email.