Disputes over children on divorce – what are the options?

Couples facing a break-up are left with many difficult decisions which can be made all the worse when children are involved. A family break-up presents challenges to children which may show in various ways as they react to parental conflict.

Legal disputes over where a child is to live and the time they spend with each parent are growing. According to Cafcass (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service), the number of new private children cases is increasing by 23% each year.

Two things need to happen for the children. Firstly, parents must minimise the potential adverse impact of their separation by continuing to show their children love, being honest, maintaining contact and listening to them.

Secondly, this support can be reinforced by legal arrangements which may need to be made to safeguard a child’s interests.

So, what are the parental options? Things need not go to court, with one route being Alternative Dispute Resolution for disagreements over children. This might involve mediation, arbitration and collaborative law – which aim to foster good ongoing relations and effective co-parenting.

Another positive element will come when the awaited Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill introduces no fault divorce, so ending both the “blame game” and, hopefully, acrimonious divorce proceedings.

If, though, the parties cannot agree child arrangements following separation and court proceedings can no longer be avoided, the parties will be invited to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) after which a court will appoint a family court advisor from Cafcass. The advisor will make recommendations to the court as to what is in the best interests of the child – taking into account the welfare principle contained in the Children Act 1989.

Axiom DWFM family lawyers can assist and provide family law advice at all levels – from general support through to options available on child arrangements, divorce, matrimonial finances and nuptial agreements. We encourage mediation and we see the court process as very much the last resort.

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