There are many people in unhappy relationships who delay separating because they are worried about what will happen to the children and whether they will be adversely affected by the changes to their lives. Following separation, trying to work out the best arrangements for the children will be the most important issue for parents.
It used to be the case that the terms “custody” and “access” were the legal terms used to describe where the children would stay and when the other parent who had left would see the children. More recently, the focus has been on where children will have their main place of “residence” after separation and when the other parent will have “contact” to the children.
When determining what will happen in so far as the children are concerned a fundamental underlying principle must be applied. This says that whatever arrangements are made for the welfare of the children, have to be in the children’s best interests. There is also an assumption that following separation both parents should have a meaningful relationship with their children.
Achieving a balance between these two principles can be complicated. Unfortunately in many cases after separation relations between the two parents are not good. There can be tensions arising out of why the relationship ended or disagreement as far as finances are concerned. It is recognised that it is certainly in the best interests of the children not to expose them to conflict between the parents and to reassure them that after separation both parents will still love them just as much as they did before.
The problem is that when people are angry it is hard to compartmentalise different aspects of their separation and sometimes the anger can affect the discussions about the arrangements for the children. In an ideal world parents will discuss what is best for their children themselves.
In some cases because of the deterioration in their relationship direct communication can be difficult. People consult solicitors to help them negotiate the arrangements as far as the children are concerned. Where will the children stay? How often will they see the non-resident parent? When will they see their grandparents? Should the children spend equal time with each parent? Should the children come into contact with either parent’s new partner. These are all common questions but depending on the circumstances in your case they can be difficult to answer.
Do you need to consult a solicitor who specialises in cases involving the welfare of children? You need someone on your side who will talk through the options with you, help you make decisions about what is best for your children and then negotiate on your behalf to bring about the best result for the family.
In certain cases it might be best to refer your case to a family mediator where you can sit round a table and the mediator will facilitate a discussion between you about what suitable arrangements might be. Alternatively, the situation might be resolved by correspondence between solicitors. Involving the courts in disagreements about children is very much a last resort. Most parents would like to make important decisions about their children themselves. Hopefully they would not need a judge to make a decision about, for example, where the children should stay.
The courts acknowledge this and would prefer not to make a court order in relation to children unless it is necessary. Apart from anything else, involving the courts is an expensive business. In some cases, however, the parents just cannot agree and it is necessary for someone to listen to all the facts and make an impartial decision about what is best for the child.
When you consult us in relation to what is best for your children we will ask you a lot of questions about your children and about what you would like to see happen. We will use the expertise we have built up in previous cases to advise you of possible outcomes and of the most appropriate way to progress your case. Above all we understand how important these issues are to you and we will be on your side providing advice until the situation is resolved.