It is important to ensure arrangements for the children of the family are put in place swiftly to help minimise the disruption to their lives. As parents you will need to think carefully about the arrangements for each of you to spend time with your children and this article explores the options available to help you move forward.
Your children need to grow up knowing that they have two parents who love them dearly and the fact you are not all living under the same roof should not change that. Time spent with each parent should enable the children to have a positive and healthy relationship, thereby helping to minimise any potential emotional damage.
We advise parents to try and mutually agree through direct discussions the arrangements for children such as where your children with live and how much time they will spend with each of their parents. It is important that parents work together and be flexible as this reduces the possibility for confrontation.
If no agreement is reached through direct discussions, then it be may beneficial to consider engaging in Mediation to try to reach an agreement. Mediation is voluntary however, if you think Court proceedings may be necessary, it is worth attending mediation as this is a pre-requisite to any proceedings. We can also step in if necessary and put forward proposals for contact arrangements and negotiate on your behalf. Only if mediation fails should the parties look to make an application for a ‘Child Arrangements Order’ through the Court. The Court should be seen as a last resort. The Court’s paramount consideration will be the welfare of the children and it will not make an order unless it considers that doing so would be better for the children than no order at all.
If an agreement can be reached, it can be useful to write down what you have agreed to avoid any misunderstandings in the future. Alternatively, we can draft a parenting agreement to reflect the terms that have been agreed. A parenting agreement is not legally binding but can help provide clarity over arrangements and serve as evidence of the parties’ intentions if required in the future.
We would advise the time spent with each parent is agreed before the level of child maintenance is considered.
‘Child Maintenance’ is payable by a non-resident parent (NRP) when couples separate. Both parents have a responsibility to contribute financially to the costs of raising their children. Where the time spent with the children includes overnight stays this will impact upon the amount of Child Maintenance paid. The Child Maintenance Service have a useful calculator on their website which can help parents find out how much maintenance is payable.
Parties are encouraged to agree the amount of maintenance payable on a voluntary basis without the need to involve the Child Maintenance Service to manage the payments.
Unfortunately, there have been cases where parents have tried to maximise the amount of maintenance payable by restricting the amount of staying contact the NRP has with the children. A Court will not look favourably upon this and the arrangements for staying contact need to be considered independently as to ‘what is in the best interests of the children’.
Find out more
If things start to go wrong in family life, we know that it can be a difficult and emotional time. To find out more about how we can help with issues involving children visit our dedicated family law page, or book a free initial conversation with one of our expert family lawyers. Whatever stage you’re at, we’ll be there to support you through it all.