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Focus on the children

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About Caroline

By Caroline Keeley

Taking the decision to divorce or separate is not an easy one and this is never truer than when children are involved. Trying to work out the family arrangements following the breakdown of a relationship is difficult with parties trying to balance financial, practical and emotional aspects. Through it all, the children must be at the centre.

The policy of the Court is now one of non-intervention and parents, following divorce or separation, are left to make their own arrangements for their children. Making an application to Court is very much the last resort when parties cannot reach agreement either through their own discussion, with the aid of solicitors or in mediation. The Court will only make an order if it considers it is in the best interests of the child to do so.

The Court has the power to make a Child Arrangements Order setting out with whom a child is to live and when they will spend time or otherwise have contact with a person. The order can name one or two people as persons with whom the children will live specifying the time that the child will live in each household. This means that a child may live with both parents in their respective households following separation but the time in those households need not be equal.

There is no formula to say how much time a child should spend with the other parent or how the child’s time should be divided between their parents’ respective households. This approach can make it difficult for parents to know how to proceed, but the benefit is that the arrangements made can and will be bespoke to your family.

It is important to realise that there should be an element of flexibility to any agreement reached or Order made by the Court to allow for one-off family occasions, a change in circumstances and the child’s needs changing as they grow up. The key for all concerned is finding a way to co-parent going forward.

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