News

01

Feb

Non-Resident Parents: What approach should you take when going to court about a child?

The term “non-resident parent” refers to parents who don’t live with their children, usually because the children live with the other parent instead.

Non-resident parents play a very important role in their children’s lives and they don’t have any less responsibility towards their children than the resident parent. It’s a common misconception that the resident parent has more “rights” or “control”.

Sometimes, non-resident parents might want to change arrangements. If the resident parent doesn’t agree to those changes, the non-resident parent might decide to apply to court to see what the court thinks should happen.

The courts will do what they consider to be best for the children so they need to be satisfied that it is better for the children to change the arrangements than it is to leave them as they are. We have developed a checklist of things for any non-resident parent to consider before they make an application:

  • Think about your MOTIVATION for applying - don't do it to avoid child maintenance or hurt the other parent.
  • Be REALISTIC - having the children live with you usually means a change in lifestyle and working hours. 
  • SHOW you can meet the children's needs without having to rely on other people all of the time.
  • Make sure the arrangements you propose are PRACTICAL - once the court case has finished it’s up to you to make it work.
  • Always think about what's BEST FOR THE CHILDREN - it's the paramount consideration of the courts.
  • Give CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE - recognise that the other parent is doing a good job even if you don’t agree with each other on everything, and avoid minimising their role.
  • Have GOOD REASONS to explain why you think a change to the current arrangements is better for the children.
  • Don't speak badly of the other parent in front of the children – it can cause significant EMOTIONAL HARM and affect the way they see themselves as they grow older.
  • Leave the past behind you - the courts need to see that you are a TEAM and can CO-PARENT even though you are separated. 
  • Be FLEXIBLE - children are unpredictable!
  • Don't PRESSURE the children to choose a side - this could have a negative impact on your relationship with them as they grow older.
  • Focus on the BIG PICTURE – the most important thing is that the children have two parents who put them first.
  • Going to court SHOULDN’T BE A BATTLE – don’t focus on winning or losing but think of it as a team of professionals working together to decide what is best for the children.
  • It’s COUNTER-PRODUCITVE to concentrate on building a case against the other parent – instead you should work on what you can do to improve your case.

If you are a non-resident parent and you are considering whether arrangements for the children should be changed, contact our team of family law specialists for an appointment to get realistic advice on your options.

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The Senior Partner at Cunningtons’ Braintree office is David Drake. Paul Fenton is the Joint Managing Partner. He, along with Johanna Withams are the residential conveyancing partners at the Braintree practice. They are supported by qualified Solicitors and Licenced Conveyancers.

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