Following separation parents usually want to minimise any disruption to their children, ensuring that they soon settle into a new routine – whether that is in the existing family home, or following a move to a new home.
Where your children will live may be an obvious or straightforward decision, for example if one parent works abroad or has a job which makes it difficult to accommodate childcare. For other families, the decision can be complex especially if parents feel strongly that the children should continue to reside with them.
If you find yourself in this scenario and fear that an agreement will never be reached, then it is wise to obtain early expert legal advice on the best way forward. David Anstee, our senior partner and matrimonial law specialist, has a wealth of experience and can help guide you through the legal principals and advise on the best approach.
Whether your relationship ended badly or you are on civil terms with your former partner, it is important to keep talking regarding your children. There are sometimes reasons why this is not possible but if this can be achieved it will usually lead to a better outcome for your children.
Poor communication between parents can be upsetting for children as they may feel like a go between or that they have to pick sides. There are likely to be numerous occasions during your children’s lives, and even into their adulthood when they will want both of their parents by their side, such as school plays, sports days or even later in life at their graduation or marriage. Keeping things on the right footing can make a difference to your children in the short and long term.
Even if you have good communication with your former partner, it is still wise to obtain early legal advice. Your solicitor can advise you on the welfare and practical considerations you should take account of when discussing your children’s future living arrangements with your former partner. You will need to decide where the children should live, and how much time they will spend with each parent, and which parent will be responsible for collecting and returning them from visits. Some focus should also go on longer term plans such as birthdays, Christmas, how school holidays will be split and how the children will be supported financially.
Depending on the age of your children, significant weight may also be given to their own wishes and feelings on where they want to live. For example, if your children are in school and have a circle of friends in the area, they may be unhappy at the thought of moving to a new area. They may also be distressed if such a move means they are unlikely to see their other parent regularly.
If you are able to agree matters as parents, then it is possible to have that formalised into a written agreement which can then be made into a court order. This will ensure the terms are properly recorded, and it should lead to fewer problems in the future.
On occasion it may not be possible to reach an agreement. If so, your solicitor can advise you in relation to your options for resolving the dispute. Mediation will enable you to discuss your children’s arrangements with the assistance of a trained mediator who acts in a neutral capacity. If mediation is unsuccessful then we can advise you on applying to court to seek an order stipulating your children’s living arrangements. The court will place the welfare needs of your children first, as this is its paramount consideration.
Each family is different, and your solicitor will be able to discuss creative options to best suit your own circumstances. To arrange a chat with David Anstee, call 0208 979 1131 or contact David via the forms on our website.