Separation and divorce: how does it affect children?
Separated parents are expected to try to resolve arrangements for their children between themselves but if that’s not possible, then an application to court for a Child Arrangements Order will be necessary.
What is a 'Child Arrangements Order'?
A Child Arrangements Order sets out how long children spend with each parent.
It can say a child 'lives with' one parent and 'spends time with' the other parent, or it can say that the child 'lives with' both parents albeit on different days i.e. the child 'lives with' one parent for set days and then 'lives with' the other parent for set days.
When making a decision about these issues, the Children Act 1989 states that the child’s welfare must be the court’s paramount consideration. In other words, the court focuses on what is best for the child, not what is best for the parents.
What does a court use to decide on the best arrangements for children?
There is a presumption that it is better for a child to have safe involvement with both parents - unless there is evidence that it is not safe or in the child’s best interests.
The child’s best interests must always be the paramount consideration, so if it would be unsafe (physically, emotionally or psychologically) for a child to spend time with either parent, the court should not require them to do so.
Child Arrangements Order proceedings can be lengthy and incredibly stressful. It is important that all parties get legal advice from a qualified family law solicitor so they understand the procedure and, most importantly, the consequences and possible outcomes.