One aspect of any separation and divorce in which minor children are involved is the question of the parents continuing relationship with and involvement in the lives of their children. This is a matter for urgent thought.
There are many issues to consider:
The role of the parents in the family
Whilst it is clearly important that you and your former partner communicate with one another at all times in respect of issues regarding your children, it is understandable that, immediately following a separation, communicating with one another may be the last thing you wish to do.
You may be considering whether a reconciliation is on the cards, or whether you just need breathing space to consider your options. You may also perhaps feel as though there is no prospect of reconciling. Regardless of the circumstances, the role of both parents in the lives of their children requires urgent thought.
Whatever the circumstances, it will need to be understood by all that if there is no prospect of reconciliation between the two of you, you should still seek to maintain a united front in your role as parents in the best interests of the children. That requires consultation, honesty, and openness in dealings regarding the children. If you feel that this cannot be achieved by you upon your separation then the services of Prism Family Law may very well be able to help you to communicate with your former partner to achieve a common purpose.
Often upon separation, little thought or consideration has been given to the issue as to where the child or children should live. Should it be with mum or dad, or can it be realistic for the child or children to live equally with you both?
There is no right or wrong decision but ultimately if you cannot agree as to where the child or children should live then this may require help to resolve and in this respect, Prism Family Law is able to help.
More often than not upon any separation, the question of “contact” will be argued over.
The law says that it is the right of the children to see the parents and not the other way round.
You and your ex-partner will need to speak regularly to discuss the child or children’s upbringing and their daily, weekly or monthly programmes so that any contact can work as well as is possible for the benefit of the child or children, not the parents.
Often if one parent works abroad or works various shift patterns, cycle patterns of contact are often agreed upon.
It is fairly important that you and your ex-partner keep each other generally informed as to where the children and each of you may be contacted. This is particularly important so that if a child or children suffer from any illness, then the other parent can be informed promptly.
Again, Prism Family Law can help here. We can make contact with the other parent and try and reach an amicable arrangement with them for the provision of contact. In cases whereby matters cannot be agreed upon, we can refer parents to mediation in order to determine whether child arrangements concerning contact can be agreed upon amicably without resort to court. If however despite those endeavours no practical or any solution at all found, then Prism Family Law can help by providing help and advice in relation to the issuing of proceedings for a Child Arrangements Order.
If you are the parent looking to change or perhaps even stop contact but are unsure as to how best to go about changing the arrangements, then Prism Family Law can help. We can communicate with the other parent concerned and make them aware of your concerns, and we can help to try and find alternative solutions and ways of perhaps managing the contact so that it can be promoted but also at the same time made entirely safe to address any risks that may be associated with contact.
Often an issue between parents is the question of how best contact can fit around a child’s school commitments.
Clearly, there does need to be flexibility in arrangements so that school requirements are adhered to and prioritised – homework must be done, and no doubt a child or children will say to you both that they want to be able to participate fully in school events as and when they fall due. Often a proper balance needs to be kept as regards the children’s right to see each parent and their school requirements but often this can be an issue and Prism Family Law can assist to resolve such issues.
Often upon separation, any holiday plans previously made by you both are left unaddressed and with either parent then not knowing what is going to happen in regards to these plans.
Whatever the circumstances, clearly you and the other parent need to organise and arrange holiday contact with each other, sufficiently in advance.
For example, you should not make bookings or arrangements without first having consulted with one another and agreed dates. You may wish to relocate or perhaps take a holiday abroad for more than the usual week or two at a time – this may impact on previously agreed contact arrangements between you.
At times this cannot be helped. Wherever possible, however, Prism Family Law will try and help you both to reach an agreement and understanding, so that such holidays can take place and be to the advantage of any child or children between you. Ideally both parents will consent to such a holiday, or indeed a relocation, but if no consensus can be found, then a referral to mediation can be made on your behalf to see whether the issues to a solution can be found amicably. If not, as a last resort, Prism Family Law can help in making an application to the Family Court to determine whether such a relocation or holiday is in the child or children’s best interests.
Wishes of the children
This is an important consideration, but should be kept in proportion with the age and understanding of each child.
Plainly, the wishes of your older child or children will carry greater weight than those of your younger child or children, because of their age(s) and maturity. Having said that, it is important to establish the children’s wishes and listen carefully to them. This does not mean that the children get to dictate their arrangements, but clearly the wishes of your child or children should be taken into account. After all, not only will the Family Court be mindful of such views, but also the willingness of the child or children to adhere to such plans is paramount if they are to be successful.
Where there are one-off school events then you might consider it sensible for you and your ex-partner to attend together, but where there are events taking place over more than one evening, you might consider whether it is more appropriate to attend separately.
Ultimately, such events and occasions and how they are to be attended are down to the two of you, but does need to be discussed.
This is an area that is all the more delicate if either of you has another partner that you may wish to bring along to a school event.
If there are one-off occasions that both of you wish to attend, and one of you objects to the partner of the other attending, then it is probably inappropriate for the third party to be present. Again, should this be an issue, Prism Family Law can help by negotiating and communicating with the other parent to try and resolve such issues well in advance.
Birthdays and Christmas
Often an issue you and your ex-partner will need to consider is who is to hold the birthday party for each child and whether it is right that there should be two separate birthday parties, whether for friends or family.
Your child or children will no doubt want to be involved in the decision making in respect of parties, and those parties will need to be planned well in advance and also paid for. You need to consider, also, whether the other parent should be invited. You may have reasons as to why that may be considered inappropriate or to be avoided at all costs.
Similar considerations apply in respect of Christmas and other festivals. Often, parents will alternate festivals so that, for example, one parent has the whole of Christmas Day with the child or children one year, and the other the next and so on. There is no hard and fast rule, however, as to what is the answer, and what works for one family doesn’t necessarily mean that this will work for another.
At Prism Family Law, we have the experience and expertise necessary to address such matters.
Often a significant issue for any parent is the introduction of new partners to their child or children.
It is absolutely vital that any new partner is introduced, intentionally, to the child or children concerned only after careful consultation with the other parent.
It is the introduction of third parties into the equation that, in our experience, is the most frequent area of tension between parents over children, and this is something that you need to try and avoid if at all possible.
At Prism Family Law, we can help you to approach this subject with your ex-partner so as to try and have any new partner introduced at a time and in a manner in which best suits the needs and welfare of any child or children.
Children can often find separation devastating. They often question whether they had any part to play in their parents’ separation from one another and the introduction of a new partner in either parents life can have untold emotional repercussions.
Clearly, the key point to take on board is that if you and your ex-partner tackle a potential issue early on, then the opportunities for misunderstandings and disagreements are much lessened.
If you and your ex-partner find difficulty over any issue, then we would always recommend that with our help you try and reach an amicable arrangement, be it in relation to where the child or children should live, to contact, to where and when they are to go on holiday.
At Prism Family Law, we will always try and amicably resolve matters on your behalf and find practical and hopefully long lasting solutions to all of those issues listed above. At Prism Family Law, we deliberately encourage communication between parents rather than confrontation, especially in cases involving children, and we always consider the needs of the whole family.
At Prism Family Law, we will always explore all of the available alternatives to litigation such as mediation or round the table meetings, as we firmly believe that family law requires a different approach to many other areas of law. The aggressive, adversarial approach can all too often inflame and prolong disputes which could otherwise have been resolved through conciliation and negotiation.
Having said that, we recognise that there are cases which cannot be resolved in that way and require court action, sometimes urgent action, and in those cases we will not hesitate in giving forthright advice and taking the necessary steps to safeguard and promote our clients case.
In April 2014 the Children and Families Act came into force which introduced Child Arrangement Orders. The purpose of the change was to highlight the importance of children having an ongoing relationship with both parents after a family separation, where it is both safe and in the child’s best interests. The welfare of the child is always the Court’s paramount consideration.
Child Arrangement Orders regulate arrangements relating to:
- With whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact.
- When a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person.
How can Prism Family Law help?
Should you not be in agreement with the arrangements for your child or children proposed or indeed already in place, at Prism Family Law we can assist you to resolve such issues by helping you mediate and reach an agreement that you and your ex-partner are happy with and for the benefit of the child or children. Should the issue be incapable of being resolved amicably, at Prism Family Law we can assist you with any necessary application to the Family Court to determine what is in the child or children’s best interests.
At Prism Family Law we offer initial free consultations so that you can consider all the available options, including but not limited to mediation and the issuing then of proceedings.
To take advantage of our free initial appointment offer and to consider all available options, please do not hesitate to contact Prism Family Law by telephone on 0191 269 6871 or alternatively email [email protected].