Child arrangements for children when parents do not live together or separate are essentially the same whether the parents are married, were previously married, were living together or not.
Historically, parents who were married had to set out the arrangements for their children as part of the divorce petition and the court issued a certificate as part of granting the divorce confirming the court was satisfied with the arrangements for children set out in the divorce petition. This requirement no longer applies and currently, under the new ‘no-fault’ divorce process, to most people’s surprise, the court is not even aware when considering the divorce whether there are any children of the marriage or children of the family (ie children treated as children of the marriage).
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It is extremely important when divorcing that parties obtain a financial remedy order as part of the divorce which will set out what is to happen to assets such as the family home and pensions and whether any spousal maintenance is to be paid. As part of the process of obtaining a financial order, whether a consent order agreed by the parties to the marriage or an order made by the court, the court need to know where the children will live. For the divorce itself however the children are not named in the divorce petition and the court will not even be aware there are any children of the marriage.
“The result was a successful outcome for me and I now have my children back.”
The law relating to children, what is often referred to as custody, residence and contact, is entirely therefore entirely separate from the divorce proceedings. Whether the parents are, or were married, or not, there is always an option to make an application to court to determine what is in the best interests of the children; where the children should live and what time they spend with the other parent. This remains a possibility regardless of how long the parents have been separated, what the current child arrangements are now and what they have been previously.
So, how does a court decide what child arrangements are in the best interests of the children?
Child arrangements are determined by the court considering the provisions of The Children Act 1989. The Children Act states that in making decisions about children the children’s welfare is paramount. The children act provides guidelines for judges to consider when making a decision on the child’s welfare and these are known as the ‘Welfare Checklist’ and the checklist states the court needs to consider the following;
The seven criteria set out in the welfare checklist under s1(3) Children Act 1989 are:
We offer a personal service, tailor made for your personal circumstances and budget, and can advise on shared custody and all aspects of child arrangements as well as financial orders for the benefit of children under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989.
As specialist family lawyers, we understand how difficult it can be when a relationship breaks down. We know the legal process and uncertainty of outcome can cause increased anxiety for you and that this can impact your children. We offer a supportive yet objective view and we are obliged by the Family Law Protocol and the Resolution guidelines to ensure the best interests of the children are considered and matters are dealt with in a non-adversarial way. You remain in control by being able to refer to us for help and advice as much or as little as you wish, throughout the process or at any stage, and as many times as you need to.
Your children are not automatically considered in divorce proceedings and the court would much rather parents worked out arrangements together but if this is not possible then a separate application can be made for a Judge to make decisions about what is in the best interests of the children. Being able to spend time with both parents is considered to be the right of every child. If you can’t agree about the arrangements for the children then at least one of you will need to attend an initial meeting with a mediator before an application is made to court. Mediation can be a very successful way of resolving issues and tends to be faster and less costly than court proceedings. Some mediators are able to involve your children in discussions too as the children’s views can be taken into account by the court in making decisions. The older the children are, the more weight will be given to their wishes and feelings.
Thank you so very much for your expert advice and guidance over the past 3 years. As I say I just can’t believe what an amazing effect it has had on me since walking from the court yesterday! I don’t mind saying as I walked back to the car park I shed a few tears of total relief of my nightmares finally coming to an end! Life can now start again and I can look forward with so much more positivity and control of it.Mr J.S.
Huge, Huge thanks for all your help, support, hard work and legal advice, it has felt like a long journey from when I first sat in your office but suddenly the case is resolved. The arrival of my Decree Absolute happened to coincide with my collection of a new car so it was a monumental day and truly marked a new chapter in our lives, thank you for making that possibleMrs L.K.
You were very fair with your charges and I really appreciate all your help. I can now look forward to the future and the next chapter of my life. Once again thank you so much for all your support through this long process and for your endeavours on my behalf. Best wishes and a huge hugMrs M.R.