Guide to arrangements for children upon relationship breakdown
The breakdown of any relationship is a highly stressful and an emotionally charged time. It is made all the more difficult when there are children involved. It is essential that any children’s feelings are put first and that they are not caught in the middle of any conflict between the parents. Parents should always seek to come to an agreement regarding the care arrangements between themselves first. Generally, the arrangements that work the best are those which parents are able to come to with each other directly. This is, however, not always possible.
The law recognises that generally it is in a child’s best interests to have meaningful contact with both parents on a regular basis. Meaningful contact will usually mean regular overnight contact in most instances. There are circumstances when a court will take the view that it is in the child’s best interests to no longer see one, or both, of their parents. However, this is in a minority of cases and will usually only where there is a history of physical, sexual or psychological abuse.
Where one parent is unhappy with a particular aspect of their care arrangement they should consider seeking legal advice. Common issues include where the children go to school, overnight contact, moving home, paternity disputes, and children maintenance disputes. There are various ways in which you can look to resolve disagreements with your former partner. Often you will be advised to consider attending mediation. Where cases are unsuitable for mediation (such as where there is a history of domestic violence), or parents are unable to come to an agreement at mediation or through solicitor negotiations, it may be necessary to issue a court application.
Upon issuing such an application the court will be asked to decide what is in the best interests of the child. In doing so, CAFCASS, an independent governmental body, will carry out checks on the parties and may be asked to conduct further reports in which they make recommendations to the court. The older the child or children in question the more weight will be attributed to their wishes and feelings.
The court has a wide range of powers in regulating how parents care for their children. Orders that the courts commonly make are contact orders, residence orders, shared residence orders, specific issue orders and prohibited steps orders. As the name suggests a prohibited steps order prevents a parent doing a specific action in relation to the child, such as taking them out of the country. A specific issue order can be made in relation to a range of issues, for example which school the children attend.
If you are interested in discussing arrangements for children upon relationship breakdown please see How Vardags can help with arrangements for children upon relationship breakdown.