Children issues whether it be which parent the child should live with; how often they should see the non-resident parent; what surname they should have or where they should go to school can often prove tricky issues to agree upon separation or divorce. All our lawyers will approach these issues sensitively and ensure that your children’s welfare is paramount.
If there are children involved, we will always encourage you to consider trying to resolve any issues directly or if this is not possible, by using either the options of Mediation or Collaborative Law. Essentially these options help to open a dialogue between you and your former partner/spouse with the aim of helping you to reach an agreement without the need for court proceedings.
The process of Mediation and/or Collaborative Law is to assist parents to look into the future and imagine how they will communicate and co-parent as their children mature. In contested court cases, it is often difficult to walk away without a huge amount of bitterness and upset and these feelings can make it difficult to behave reasonably and respectfully to the other parent. Mediators and Collaborative lawyers are trained to ensure that you focus on your children’s needs and discuss all of the tricky issues which we hope will be resolved through negotiation and discussion.
If Mediation or Collaborative Law is unsuitable for your particular circumstances then you may have to consider issuing court proceedings. This does not mean that you have failed your children as there are a number of situations and circumstances which are often too difficult to agree upon during separation. For example, one parent may decide they wish to live in another country or move too far away from the non-resident parent which makes arrangements to visit difficult.
There are also a number of other reasons the court may need to get involved in helping to make decisions. If one parent behaves particularly badly or you are concerned about your children’s welfare when they are with the other parent, you may need the court’s assistance.
We are able to assist and advise you on whether to make an application and we can also instruct barristers or represent you ourselves depending on the particular circumstances. The Court will always take into account s1(3) of the Children Act 1989 (known as the welfare checklist) when making a decision about your children. The factors which the court will have regard to are:
- The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in light of his age and understanding);
- His physical, emotional and educational needs;
- The likely effect on him of any change in his circumstances;
- His age, sex, background and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant;
- Any harm which he has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
- How capable each of his parents, 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 available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question.