We understand that arrangements for children are highly emotional and difficult for everyone involved, and we can guide and support you to achieve the best outcome for you and your children.
Arrangements for children following divorce and separation are frequently referred to as ‘child custody’, however many people will be surprised to know that there is no such legal term. Instead, following the introduction of the Children and Families Act 2014, Child Arrangement Orders determine who children see and where they live.
Child Arrangement Orders
Child Arrangements Orders regulate arrangements relating to any of the following: –
- who a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with, and
- when a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person
Where They Live
So-called ‘child custody’ issues are highly emotional and difficult for everyone involved. After separation, when the hurt is raw, one parent may try to ‘punish’ the other parent by restricting or stopping that parent seeing the children. Sadly, this hurts the children who usually want a relationship with both of their parents. The children find it hard to be told all the negatives about their other parent because they interpret this to mean that 50% of them is not loved as they are half of that parent.
Equally, when the children are there all the time it is taken for granted that they will always be there, for example, one parent works long hours. It is not unusual for a parent who was distracted before separation to be more focused and involved with their children after separation.
When it comes to divorce and children, the needs of the children have to come first. If the court needs to make the decision on custody the welfare checklist is used:
- The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in light of his/her age and understanding);
- His/her physical, emotional and educational needs;
- The likely effect of any change in his/her custody circumstances;
- His/her age, sex, background and any characteristics of him/her which the court considers relevant;
- Any harm which he/she has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
- How capable each of his/her parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his/her needs;
- The range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question.
Both parents may want the children to live with them. Talking through the children’s daily needs and how both parents can meet them, perhaps in mediation or with a therapist, will help.
Who they see
When deciding arrangements for children upon divorce or separation, the detail around who they see and when can be one of the most contentious issues. After separation, it is not unusual to find it difficult when your ex-partner finds a new partner particularly if the relationship was the trigger for your relationship to end. It can be hard to put aside the hurt.
For the parent who is not living with their child, it is hard to accept that a new partner may see more of their child than they do. For the children, it can help if their parents can agree on when a new partner can be introduced. Until the relationship has lasted for at least a few months and is going to be long-term the children don’t need to meet them. This is putting the children’s feelings first.
Introductions should be gradual and it made clear that the new partner is not going to replace their parent.
Unless there is something worrying about the new partner, e.g. drug abuse, then the introduction of new partners cannot be stopped. But again, it is thinking about the feelings of the children and not making the introduction too quickly or too intensely.
If the new partner is living with the other parent then there may be occasions when they will be involved in some aspects of child care.
When you start living with a new partner, especially if their children live with you, and your children do not live with you full time, the children really appreciate you spending time with them without your new partner. This makes your children feel special.
Grandparents can be important to children and they may want to continue seeing their grandchildren particularly when they were involved with child care.
Talking through the arrangements in mediation will give you as parents and the children time to adjust to the change in your family shape and the introduction of new partners.
How can Family Law Partners help?
Family Law Partners is an award-winning team of divorce and family law solicitors. Unlike many other family firms, we can guide you towards a method of dispute resolution with the aim of saving you time and money – as well as ensuring the needs of the whole family (children especially) are met. We believe that cases involving divorce and children doesn’t have to mean upset and conflict, and our team of solicitors, mediators, collaborative lawyers and arbitrators can work with you to ensure the best outcome for you and your family.