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What arrangements should be made in relation to children following a divorce?

In our last two Family articles we have looked at divorce and financial settlement between you and your spouse following a divorce.  However, the most important discussions between couples who separate (whether married or cohabiting) concern their children and the arrangements for them.

Whilst you and your partner may not want to be together any longer, both of you still love your children and want to be with them.  Unfortunately a consequence of separation is that neither parent can be with their children 24/7.  The children’s time must be shared.

How do you do this?

It is important to realise that the court will look at what is in the best interests of the children, not what is in the best interests of the parent!

The court will want to promote an ongoing relationship with both parents. Often practicalities lead to an obvious solution. For example, if only one parent works the children are likely to remain living with the ‘stay at home’ parent and spend time with the other when possible. This might mean every other weekend or it might mean time during the week after school.  The court will want to share weekends and school holidays as well as the children’s after school time.

Parents often say that they should have 50% of the children’s time.  Whilst this may be what they would like, is it what the children want?  Some children love to wake up at one parent’s and go home to the other after school.  Other children do not want that and crave a base.   It depends upon the child, their age, their wishes and their commitments.

The older a child, the more say they will have over where they spend time.  However, the younger the child, the greater the need to have a routine that works.  There will always be issues and last minute changes, but the basic routine should be easy for everyone to understand and follow.  If you need a degree in maths to understand where the child should be at any given time, are you doing what’s in your child’s best interest, or are you doing what you want, or worse trying to punish your former partner?

It is difficult to co-parent immediately after a break up.  The emotions of the situation interfere with everything, but if you have children together, the likelihood is that you will always be in each other’s lives.  Therefore, being civil to each other (no matter what), not involving the children in the breakdown of the relationship and focusing on your love for the children, should be the cornerstone of your co-parenting going forward.

The courts do not want to make decisions over where a child should spend a weekend; they want the parents to be parents.  Nonetheless, if you and your former partner cannot reach an agreement concerning the children, then the court will make it for you.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to constitute legal advice.  For legal advice in connection with the above, please contact us directly.

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