During separation or divorce proceedings, the child arrangements will be one of the main topics that gets brought up. Many couples will struggle to agree on how time with the children will be divided, where they will live, and who they will spend the holidays with. During this time, it’s vital that the children are helped to understand the separation and supported through the process.
Although a separation is painful for all parties involved, children is particular can find it confusing and distressing. Disagreements over child arrangement are likely to occur, and this in particular can cause emotional distress. By considering the feelings of children during legal proceedings, and settling disputes calmly, this can be reduced.
Many people assume that during a divorce or separation, the issue of child arrangements will be brought to court. In fact, many people choose not to go through the courts, often due to the costs involved. There is also a chance that neither parent will be happy with the Judge’s decision, in which case more arguments may occur. Parents who can agree upon arrangements outside of court will find that they have more flexibility and control; over time, the family’s needs may change, and this is easier to deal with when there are no court orders in place. Children might also feel better knowing their parents could sit down and agree on an issue even during a difficult time.
Alternatives to traditional court proceedings include:
- Mediation – Mediators are especially trained to reduce conflict and help parents come to an agreement, and they remain completely neutral throughout the process. During mediation, the parents will sit with either one or two mediators and discuss every aspect of the separation. Normally this is done over 2-5 sessions. If the conflict is particularly difficult, the mediator can arrange to keep the parents in separate rooms and move from one to the other. Specialist mediators can also meet with the children involved and then communicate their wishes to the parents; this means the children will not be pressured by one parent or the other and have the chance to express their feelings honestly.
- Collaborative Law – Collaborative Law is conducted in a similar manner to mediation, but with collaboratively trained lawyers instead of mediators. Face-to-face meetings will be held with both parents and their lawyers present, until all legal aspects of the separation are agreed upon.
- Separation agreements – Not all couples who wish to divorce may be granted a divorce by the court. If it’s likely that an application for divorce will be rejected, a family solicitor may suggest a separation agreement instead. A separation agreement is legally binding, and functions as a contract that outlines what the responsibilities and obligations are for each party.
Whether you decide to get a divorce granted through the court or arrange your separation by other means, it’s important that your children are taken into consideration at all times. The way in which a separation is handled could affect their mental well-being for a long time, so it’s vital that conflict is avoided as much as possible.
Many families are concerned about seeking legal advice because they worry about the fees involved. However, attempting to fill in paperwork yourself can be costly; if you make any errors the court may reject your application and you will be out of pocket. At Foys Solicitors, we offer competitive fixed fees starting from just £200, and our initial consultation with you is completely free of charge. Depending on your situation, you may also be eligible for legal aid.
To book an initial free consultation or to find out more about our family law services, call your local Foy Solicitors office today.