When adults separate it can become the children who are the focus of the anger and hurt and they become a battlefield for parents.
In fact the law states that it is the child who has rights in the matters of separation and children – the right to have a close relationship with both parents, and it is the needs of the child which is the priority of the courts. Andrew Isaacs LLP discuss what happens to the children in divorce and separation.
Research shows that:
- The majority of children do not wish their parents to separate and regard it as a major crisis in their lives and it should be treated as such.
- If children have had a good and safe relationship with both parents before separation, it damages them if either relationship is disrupted or broken.
- Witnessing continuing parental conflict or being dragged into is the factor most likely to give the children issues in later life.
- Children hate it if their parents speak badly of each other in front of them, after all they are part of both of you.
- Children manage best if they spend routine time and overnight with both parents rather than just “exciting times” with one parent and day to day time with the other. The key is always regularity and routine.
- Children can manage different rules and styles in each household, what they hate is when one parent makes a fuss about it.
- The best outcomes happen when the children are able to express their wants but are NOT made to decide.
There are always exceptions and none of the above is likely to apply where there is serious domestic abuse or there has been significant harm to the children.
Seeking early advice about what a Court is likely to see as reasonable in respect of how your child’s time is shared between you and your ex could save a great deal of heartache to you and your children, or alternatively strengthen your understanding that you need to fight for their needs.
You may also need help if you cannot agree on what school they should go to, or if one of you wishes to move away or even abroad.
Child Arrangements Orders
When parents cannot agree how their children should share their time between them, then either of them can ask the court to decide the matter.
Before doing so they must first attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) with a Family Mediator (which we can arrange).
If Mediation is not successful then an application can be made to the Family Court for a Child Arrangements Order, which can deal with matters such as where the child lives, how much time they spend with each parent, where they go to school etc.
Such Orders are binding on both parents and can be enforced via the courts if necessary. This is a court order that is binding on both parents, and which sets out the times and days that children must live at one residence or another.
Children have rights
The Court will only restrict the relationship between a child and a parent if it is clear that this would not be in the best interest of the child.
The family court will also be guided by the following welfare checklist when considering a child arrangements order:
- The wishes and feelings of the child, taking into account their age, level of understanding and maturity. Most Courts regard children of ten years and older as having an understanding of their circumstances but that does not mean that their wishes will be followed, anymore than they decide if they go to the dentist!
- The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs.
- The likely effect that any change of circumstances will have on the child.
- The child’s age, sex, background and any other characteristics that the court thinks are relevant.
- Any harm that the child may have suffered or is at risk of suffering.
- How capable the parties in the case are of meeting the child’s emotional and physical needs.
- All of the powers that the Court has under the Children Act, which could be used within the proceedings.
Before starting proceedings it is important to get legal advice on the strengths and weaknesses of your position.