Separation and Contact Issues with your Children following divorce or separation

There is never a good time for parents to separate or divorce. Not only is this a difficult time for the parents suffering the relationship breakdown, but it is also a difficult time for the children.

According to Office for National Statistic (2017), single parent families make up nearly a quarter of families with dependent children.

When a relationship breaks down the paramount consideration for both parents needs to be the child(ren) of the family. A child has the right to see both parents unless there are safeguarding concerns. Any decision reached needs to be in the best interest of the child(ren). The Welfare Checklist sets out a number of factors that must be considered by the Court. These factors include the following:

  • The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the children (considered in the light of their age and understanding)
  • The physical, emotional and educational needs of the children.
  • The likely effect on the children of any change in their circumstances.
  • The age, sex and background of the children and any other characteristic which the court considers relevant (including the children’s ethnic origin, culture and religion).
  • Any harm which the children have suffered or is at risk of suffering.
  • How capable are each of the parents, or any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, of meeting the children’s needs.
  • The range of powers available to the court under the Children Act.

How to go about seeing your children? Knowing your options

Going through a divorce can feel more stressful if there are children involved, but knowing all your options will help. If you are unable to negotiate between yourselves as to the appropriate contact for the children, then you may wish to consider the following options:

  • Negotiations between solicitors or a solicitor and one parent who is unrepresented to try and achieve the ultimate goal of a contact agreement;
  • Mediation; where a Mediator who is an independent third party helps parties to try and resolve issues and come up with an agreement. Mediation is also a prerequisite to issuing an application to the Court. A solicitor can help you complete a Mediation form and give you some advice.
  • An application to the Court to determine issues for contact.

Parties often prefer to come to an arrangement over having a decision imposed on them by way of a Court Order and the Family Courts encourage such agreements. If you breach a Court Order you could be found in contempt of Court and sanctions imposed on you. If the other parent breaches the Court Order an application to the Court can be made for the Order to be enforced.

The Court may also recommend parties attend a course related to separated parents to help parents understand how they can be separated but work together for the importance of a child and implement these techniques.

Importance of Legal Advice

It is extremely important to get family law advice regardless of whether or not you wish to instruct a solicitor to deal with the whole of your case. Family solicitors can advise you as to what your options are and the best way to proceed. Your family lawyer can also guide/assist you with completing the Application for the Court and ensuring all the required information is contained in the Application. You can be criticised if you do not include some of the information when an application is made to the Court and you later wish to rely upon that information.

We are offering an initial fixed fee appointment limited to assisting and advising you in completing an application for a Child Arrangements Order provided Mediation has been tried/considered. This limited offer does not cover Court representation.

Other factors to consider

The children begin to suffer as the relationship between their parents begins to deteriorate, due to all the possible tension within the family home. Research shows that a parents relationship breakdown can have a negative impact on a child’s mental health and development difficulties. Therefore, it is imperative for contact issues to be dealt with as smoothly as possible.

If you've been issued with or you're issuing divorce papers, you'll want to make sure there is the least amount of disruption for your children. It's important to get family law advice that is specific to your situation. For a solicitor who will provide straightforward and practical advice, please contact our family law team on 0121 685 8122.

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