One of the most important things to consider when a couple separate or divorce is the effect it will have on their children. Rather than talking about the rights of parents, the law talks about the ‘parental responsibility’ for a child.
So How Are Things Decided?
When making the arrangements for children it is important to be willing to negotiate and come to an agreement rather than argue at length. If both parties agree a proposal, it is more likely to work than if one party is not happy.
It is best if you and your partner can come to some private arrangement regarding your children. This means the Courts do not become involved and your children are protected from unnecessary upset.
What If We Cannot Reach An Agreement About Our Children Ourselves?
If you cannot reach a private agreement yourselves, the first step is to speak to your solicitor. They may be able to suggest alternatives and to speak with your ex-partner’s solicitor and come to some agreement, again without involving the Courts directly.
If this proves impossible, the Court can become involved and will make the decision based on the evidence they receive. They will need details of the children such as their ages, their wishes and feelings, the ability of the parents to meet their needs and any other information they feel relevant. They may ask for a Welfare Report, which is a detailed Report looking at all of these aspects, which is drawn up by an expert who deals with these cases on a day to day basis. This will usually involve a visit to where the children are living and, if they are old enough, asking them questions on how they feel.
What Will The Court Decide?
The Court can decide both where the children live, and when and where the parents can have contact with their children. The Court’s initial view is for no Orders to be made unless necessary in the hope that the parents can agree all children issues.
What Happens To The Children If We Are Not Married?
For unmarried parents the mother will automatically have parental responsibility. The father will also automatically have parental responsibility if he is named on the child’s Birth Certificate. Otherwise the father will have to either enter into an agreement with the mother or apply to the Court to gain parental responsibility. There are a number of instances where the agreement of all those with parental responsibility is required, for example to change the name of a child or to take them out of the country.