– Is Everyone Happy?
After separating, any arrangement should always be in the best interests of the children, advises specialist lawyer Helen Lucking Head of Family & Divorce at Napthens
The relationship with your partner has ended, how often do you see your children? Hopefully there is an amicable arrangement in place where the children move seamlessly between the two of you and all issues are resolved without difficulty.
Sadly, the reality in most cases following the breakdown of a relationship or marriage is that there are often children issues to resolve, sometimes when not expected.
Do you have a regular routine in place? It is important during school term times that each parent spends time with the children after school and at weekends if convenient for you both. This often depends on working patterns, but a usual arrangement is alternate weekends Friday to Sunday and a regular mid-week slot.
The advice is always to plan as far in advance as possible and be fair and reasonable with the other parent. Children pick up on animosity and arguments in front of them should obviously be avoided.
What happens during school holidays? It is often best to suspend the term time arrangement and have a different one, where each parent spends longer with their children. It is rare for a parent’s annual leave to cover all the school holidays, so there must be negotiation. This often includes assistance from family or holiday clubs.
If you cannot agree how much time you spend with your children then there are several options. The first thing to do is to try to talk about it. If you cannot, then you may wish to instruct a solicitor for independent advice, they can advise you what is reasonable and fair.
If no agreement can be reached through solicitors, or even before you appoint a solicitor, you may wish to consider mediation.
This involves both parties first having a short meeting with an independent mediator to see if their case is suitable. This is called a MIAM. Thereafter the case progresses to a joint mediation session. Often arrangements can be agreed round the table at mediation.
A party must refer their case to mediation before court proceedings are issued. Court proceedings should be issued only as a last resort. The courts are only concerned with what is in the best interests of the children. The court does not often make an order which exactly reflects what one parent wants. It is much more likely for neither to be happy with the court order – this needs to be borne in mind.
If you are in any doubt about your arrangements for Easter, summer or even next Christmas, I suggest that you speak to a specialist family solicitor as soon as possible.
Helen Lucking is a Partner and Head of Family & Divorce at regional law firm Napthens