If you are a parent and in the process of separation then you will need to think carefully about the arrangements for each of you to spend time with your children following the separation.
Children are not commodities to be bartered nor are they weapons in warfare. Your children need to grow up knowing that they have two parents who love then dearly and the fact that you are no longer living together in the same house should not change that. Time spent with each parent should enable the children to have a positive and healthy relationship thereby minimising any potential emotional damage.
We advise parents to try and agree the arrangements and we can draft a parenting agreement to reflect the terms that have been agreed. Once the arrangements have been agreed we would suggest that attention is turned to the payment of maintenance.
Where the time spent with the children includes overnight stays this will impact upon the amount of Child Maintenance paid.
“Child Maintenance” is payable by a non resident parent (NRP) when couples separate. Parents are encouraged to agree the amount of maintenance payable on a voluntary basis without the need to involve the Child Maintenance service to administer the payments. There is a useful online calculator which you can use to check the amount of maintenance payable.
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”.
The issues of maintenance and overnight stays are completely separate and should not be considered as one. We would advise that the time spent with each parent is agreed before the level of maintenance is considered.
If no agreement is reached through direct discussions then the parties should attempt to reach agreement through Mediation. Only in the event that mediation fails should the parties look to an application for a “Child Arrangements Order” through the court. The court should be seen as a last resort when other options such as mediation have failed.
For specialist advice on Children matters please contact Tracy Lambert and the Family Team at Exeter on 01392 207020 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.