15th March 2016

Family Law and Arrangements for Children

Family Law and Arrangements for Children

I am considering separating from my spouse/partner, how should we deal with arrangements for the children?

Don’t rush into anything; if possible, try to have a calm conversation with your spouse or partner, preferably in a neutral environment and away from the children so that you can discuss any necessary interim arrangements and how to move forward in the longer term.

Each family is unique and it is important that you both continue to communicate to allow you to make arrangements for the children which suit your family.

Remember that even if you cannot continue to be a couple, you will always be your children’s parents and they need to be reassured that this will not affect their relationship with both of you. Of course a separation will involve upheaval for everyone, but let your children see that you will both continue to be there to love and support them and that nothing will change that.

Usually it is fairly obvious which parent is in a better position to be the primary carer for the children and so the discussions tend to be more concerned with arrangements for the children to see the other parent. Although there are no set rules which govern how much time children should spend with the parent they do not live with, a typical arrangement is for them to spend alternate weekends with him or her and possibly one evening or night during the week. School holidays are often shared equally, if work permits. Obviously a degree of flexibility in the arrangements is desirable to allow for work and other commitments. Try to agree how school parents’ evenings, plays, sports days etc. will be dealt with as these events can cause children real concern if they fear that there may be an uncomfortable atmosphere.

At all costs, do not use children as pawns or weapons in adult disagreements; they need to be protected from these, not dragged into them.

If you find it difficult to talk to your partner or if you know that there will inevitably be a disagreement over child arrangements, don’t worry as help is available. Solicitors who specialise in family law don’t just give legal advice; they should be able to put you in touch with counsellors who can provide support, some of whom will even talk to the children to gain an insight into their feelings and wishes. There are also courses available which offer practical support and advice to separating parents.