Separation is never easy especially when there is a child under the age of 18 involved and where the parents are in the public eye.
After more than two years together singers, Cheryl and Liam Payne have announced they are splitting up. The former Girls Aloud star, 35, and One Direction member, 24, have a son Bear who was born in March last year.
The couple confirmed the split on social media, saying they were “sad” and it had been a “tough” decision to make”, adding: “We still have so much love for each other as a family”.
Cheryl tweeted: "Bear is our world, and we ask that you respect his privacy as we navigate our way through this together."
These statements suggest that both parents are committed to providing the physical and emotional support that Bear needs throughout his childhood. It is always in the interests of a child for parents to set aside their issues and to work together to meet the child’s needs.
What will the arrangements be for baby Bear now that his parents have split?
If Liam is named as Bear’s father on the birth certificate, then both he and Cheryl will have Parental Responsibility for him. Parental Responsibility means the legal rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority a parent has for a child and the child's property. A person who has Parental Responsibility for a child has the right to make decisions about their care and upbringing.
Could co-parenting be an option for them?
Co-parenting is a process where two parents work together to raise a child even though they are divorced or separated and no longer live together. These days co-parenting is becoming increasingly popular. The rights of the child are more at the forefront of people’s minds than ever before, and there are more cases where people put their differences aside in order to maintain a good relationship with the child and the other parent. Will it be possible for Liam and Cheryl to co-parent despite them being under the scrutiny of the press and with their busy work schedules? Co-parenting can work well for both parents in terms of sharing child care, school runs, weekends, holidays - and is a lot more flexible than a very restrictive court order. People who co-parent do need to on the same page in terms of bedtimes, homework, activities etc otherwise the child will suffer if the parenting is inconsistent.
Liam and Cheryl’s options:
Legally, Liam and Cheryl have three options for what they would like to do following their recent circumstances. These three options are;
- They agree on arrangements for Bear which is always in the child’s best interests and enables them to maintain a civil relationship. They could draw up a Parenting Plan if they wish which is a written plan worked out between parents after they separate, which covers the practical issues of parenting. The plan can help to clarify the arrangements that need to be put in place to help them care for their children after separation, without having to go to court. They can do this with legal advice if they wish to do so.
- They can attend mediation- Family Mediation is where a professionally trained mediator helps people to work out an agreement about issues such as arrangements for children after separation and or financial issues. Mediation is a cost-effective and conciliatory way of dealing with matters. Mediation also allows families to deal with matters creatively and in a way that suits them and their children.
- The third option is Court which should always be a last resort, and court proceedings should only be issued when all previous attempts to resolve matters have failed. The outcomes of court proceedings can be unpredictable as the court is in control and sadly an expensive and lengthy court case usually only serves to increase animosity between parents. Any application is for a Child Arrangement Order which can state who a child lives with or spends time with.
Welfare Checklist of the Children Act 1989
If Liam and Cheryl are unable to agree on the arrangements for Bear and if court proceedings are issued, the Courts must consider the welfare of the child as a priority.
The following factors are taken into account in court proceedings relating to children
-The wishes and feelings of the child concerned (taking into consideration their age and understanding);
-The child's physical, emotional and educational needs;
- The likely effect on the child of any change in circumstances;
-The child's age, sex, background and any characteristics which the court considers relevant;
- Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
-How capable his parents are, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant is of meeting his needs;
- The range of powers open to the court under the Children Act 1989.
This is referred to as the Welfare Checklist.
It is hoped that Cheryl and Liam will be able to work together in Bear’s best interests.
If you require advice in relation to any issues raised in this article then please contact Sharon McKie our Head of Family on 01302 341414.