Separation is such a stressful time for parents that it is not always easy to think of the needs of your children. The way you handle things now will have a lasting influence on your children. Our specialist team of Family Law solicitors can advise you on reaching agreements, or if necessary obtaining Orders to settle the arrangements for your children and confirm your parental rights.
Child Arrangement Orders
If you can't agree about where your children will live (often called residence or custody) and what time the other parent should spend time with your children (often called contact or access) the court can make a child arrangement order.
The court will only make a child arrangements order if it thinks that’s the best thing for the children. Such an order sets out where the children will live, who they should spend time with, what other types of contact they should have when those contacts should take place and how long they should last. Contact can include visiting, writing letters/emails and talking on the telephone/texting.
Although a grandparent has no automatic legal right to see a grandchild unless there is evidence of abuse or violence a court would not normally refuse a grandparent access to grandchildren.
In all circumstances, the court tries to make the decision which is in the best interests of the children.
Sharing the Care of your Children
The most common arrangement is for one parent to have care of any children with the other parent having contact. With shared care, your children can split their time between both of you. You might also have heard this referred to as shared custody or joint custody.
One advantage of this arrangement is that the two parents share both the benefit and the burden of raising the children, but the biggest advantage is that the children do not feel they have to choose between their parents.
This is not the norm in the UK, though organisations are trying to increase its acceptability. Of course, this is something that both parents can agree to during meditation or in a Settlement Agreement.
A Voluntary Agreement is one where you both agree to the financial support for your children. It can be verbal but is often best written down.
The agreement can cover many things. For example, one parent could make a regular payment to the other or could pay for specific things such as rent, the mortgage, household bills, children’s clothing, schooling or holidays.
It is worth asking a Family Law solicitor to help set up a Voluntary Agreement to make sure that normal considerations are included and in case there is ever a dispute in the future.
For guidance as to the amount of child support that you can expect to give or receive, use the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) calculator https://www.gov.uk/calculate-your-child-maintenance
The court will only deal with child support if terms are agreed or in exceptional circumstances e.g. you are applying for maintenance for a stepchild, additional support above CMS calculation, expenses arising from a child's disability, expenses incurred by a child for being educated or in training for work or the child or parent is abroad.
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