Child arrangements upon separation
Rachael Sutcliffe of Forbes Solicitors explains how separating parents can come to an agreement with regards to the care of their children
In recent months we have seen an increase in clients approaching us for advice following a separation from their partner or spouse. Many have stated that the pressures of the lockdown and the restrictions have negatively affected their relationship, resulting in the decision to separate.
Separating from a partner is never easy and emotions will be running high. However, if there are young children there is the additional difficulty of trying to come to an agreement as to who the children should live with and how often they should spend time with the other parent.
For a parent who is no longer living with the children, they will see the time they spend with them drop significantly from every day, to perhaps a few days each week. On the other hand, the parent who now has primary care of the children will have the additional stress of being a single parent, and being solely responsible for all of the day-to-day tasks, where they would have previously had help from the other parent.
In some cases, parents can come to an agreement regarding the arrangements for the children and they find that this works well for them. If it is not possible to come to an agreement regarding arrangements, it is advisable to seek independent legal advice as to the options available.
A solicitor will explain and explore the options available when there are areas of dispute. The first step is to communicate with the other side, to see whether an agreement can be reached via negotiation. There is some level of compromise that must be made by both parents if an agreement is to be reached in this way. If it becomes apparent that an agreement cannot be reached, a referral should be made to mediation, with the view of issuing an application to court. In most cases, parents are required to attempt mediation before applying to the court, however, there are some circumstances where a parent may be exempt from attending.
The only option available to parents if mediation is unsuccessful is to make an application to the Family Court. The court will encourage the parties to agree arrangements with the assistance of CAFCASS, who are family court advisors. CAFCASS will speak to both parents and may also speak to the children to ascertain their wishes and feelings. If the parents are still unable to agree, the matter will proceed to a final hearing where a judge will make a decision based on the facts that they have available to them, with the safety and welfare of the children being paramount.
In addition, Forbes have also seen an increase in requests for advice in relation to contact arrangements in light of the current national and local restrictions on travel. The guidelines in respect of contact are, however, quite clear. Children can and should continue to move from household to household for the purposes of contact. Provided that the children, the other parent or any other member of their household are not in isolation and do not have symptoms of Covid-19, there is no reason why the current restrictions should prevent contact continuing.
For more information contact Rachael Sutcliffe by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 01772 220 022