16th April 2024|In Latest News, Divorce & Separation

In the Child’s Best Interest: Separation for Parents

Today, we delve into the heart of separation agreements to examine what difference it makes when there are children involved. From those seeking them to family lawyers, arbitrators, mediators, judges, and other stakeholder, a clear consensus seems to have emerged: securing positive outcomes for children is a paramount concern.

The Two-Home Reality

In the aftermath of a separation, it’s commonplace for children to split their time between two homes. The duration spent in each can fluctuate, guided by the overriding principle of what best serves the child’s interests.

Factors to Consider

Several factors come into play when determining a child’s living arrangements. These include the child’s age, their understanding of the separation, the parents’ residences, the child’s school location, and what both parties’ expectations for the future are.

Let’s consider a hypothetical scenario: both parents reside on the same street post-separation. In this case, it might be most convenient and equitable for the child to divide their time equally between both houses. However, if one parent lives closer to the child’s school, it might be more practical for the child to stay with that parent on weekdays and spend weekends with the other parent.

The Role of Age

As children grow older and more mature, their wishes increasingly influence the decision-making process. This is a significant factor that gains importance over time. For most families, by the time the child is 16, their opinion on where they should be living is the overriding factor in these discussions.

Individual Circumstances

Every family’s circumstances are unique, and so are the best arrangements for the children involved. It’s crucial to remember that a variety of options and arrangements can be implemented, all with the child’s needs at the forefront.

When Parents Disagree

In instances where parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, a court application can be made. The court then steps in to assist the parents in reaching a consent order or, if necessary, makes an order prioritising the child’s needs. The court refers to the Children Act 1989 and the Child Welfare Principles to determine exactly what these needs are. This order can then be imposed on the separated family to ensure a positive outcome for the children.

However, let us reiterate that court orders are a last resort. The majority of separating families are able to reach a suitable arrangement without court intervention, and in most cases it’s better for everybody to avoid court. Court tends to take longer, cost more, and lead to more difficult relationships between the separated partners, than other methods, such as mediation.

We hope this post has provided some clarity on the complex issue of separation agreements when there are children involved. Remember, every family is unique, and what works best for one may not work for another. The key is to keep the child’s best interests at heart.

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