Children and separation: How can a family lawyer help?

What can a family solicitor do to help a parent who is going through separation make arrangements for their children?

When we first meet a parent experiencing difficulties in making arrangements with their ex-partner to see their children or decide where they will live, the first thing we’d do is explain the different options available to them to resolve the situation. We’d ask them to put aside any negative feelings and focus on what’s best for their children, while also taking any practical considerations into account.

As a member of Resolution, I would also always encourage parents to try to resolve any disagreements together, either by direct communication or through their solicitor if communicating face-to-face is not appropriate.

They might also consider mediation as a means of resolving their problems in a non-confrontational way, where they can talk about arrangements in a neutral space with an impartial person who will help them discuss any difficulties or disagreements objectively.

If there is an issue that cannot be resolved by other means, or if communication is not possible, then a family lawyer can assist a parent in making an application to the court. While this is often thought of as taking an aggressive stance, it is the court’s duty to assist the parents in making arrangements that are fair and in the best interests of their children. It may be that the court’s role will be to ‘fine tune’ what’s already in place, so that both parents are satisfied and can focus on making the new arrangements work. The other benefit of contacting a family lawyer is that, as an expert in their field, they’re aware of the signs of more difficult or potentially dangerous situations. Where there are signs of domestic abuse or addiction, a family solicitor can give advice on how the courts can help and act quickly to protect any children involved.

Whatever your situation, it’s always worthwhile to get some good advice about your options when sorting out arrangements for your children.

What way do most parents resolve difficulties in making arrangements for their children?

We find that most parents can make arrangements themselves, usually without going through the court process. They’ll almost always have some kind of arrangement in place by the time they’ve contacted us, so by weighing up all of the options, we can help them decide what works and what doesn’t in order to find a flexible arrangement that’s right for both their children and themselves.

A family solicitor can help clarify their options and what the most appropriate course of action may be to resolve any difficulties.

How do families find solutions that last?

In most cases, the key to a lasting solution is to understand that as your children grow up your circumstances will change, so any arrangements may also have to change. Transitions such as children starting school can mean changes will need to be made to how often a child will stay with one parent or the other. A flexible approach is essential to making arrangements work in the long term.

Are there any misconceptions parents have about dealing with disputes over children?

One of the major misconceptions parents have when approaching child care arrangements in court proceedings is that the court will usually favour one parent over the other. Often, the expectation is that the mother will be favoured over the father.

This is simply not the case, as the court will take the full situation into consideration, including the children’s current arrangements, when helping parents sort out any care arrangements.

The misconception arises because the court will usually seek to maintain some consistency in the child’s care arrangements, so if the child has been living with mum already, the court may decide to allow this arrangement to continue.

However, it may be that shared residence could be the best solution, or the main residence may be with the father if he was a stay-at-home-dad. Whatever is decided, any arrangements will always be made in the best interests of the child.

Many parents also believe that there is a one-size-fits-all arrangement that can be applied to them, but every case is different and often circumstances change. It’s important that both parents understand that arrangements are likely to change as their children grow up.

What do parents disagree over the most?

Where the children will be during Christmas will almost always be the most difficult and emotive issue to deal with. Understandably, each parent will want to be with their children during what should be an exciting and happy time. It’s important to listen to what your children want. You may even consider sharing the special morning together.

If you need advice on sorting out a disagreement over arrangements for your children, talk to one of our experts. Call 0800 138 0458 or complete our contact form to receive a call back. We offer a free initial consultation with a family lawyer.

What our clients say…

Thank you for all the valuable advice you gave me through my most difficult time and for helping me to achieve some closure.

Family Law Client

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