Dealing With Child Arrangements When Families Break Up
Monday, January 21st, 2019
on behalf of Gilson Gray
Sally Nash shares her advice on dealing with child arrangements when parents have separated
Although Christmas is now a distant memory, for many families it only served to heighten tensions when it comes to the issue of child arrangements for parents who have separated. But, of course, the issues surrounding separated or divorced parents seeing their children are the same throughout the year.
Sally Nash, Senior Associate, Family Law at Gilson Gray, shares four helpful tips on dealing with the factors that may arise when reaching an agreement on child care arrangements.
There is no normal
It is important to bear in mind that there is no “norm”. Clients often come to us to say that a well-meaning friend or colleague has told them that a particular pattern of contact is what “always happens”; or that it is a given that any children will principally reside with mum.
While there are certain patterns of contact which we see more often than others, ultimately what parents agree upon varies significantly.
The days are also long gone where it is presumed that the person best placed to have the children with them most of the time is mum. The law clearly directs that all such matters are determined based on what is in the best interests of the particular child concerned. Inevitably, that will vary from child to child.
The arrangements will also hugely depend on practicalities such as how close the parents live to one another. The bottom line is that there is no right or wrong answer to any situation.
Watch your language
Although the concepts of “custody” and “access” have been a thing of the past in Scotland since 1995, we all too often hear those terms and think of negative connotations – that a child “belongs” to one parent and the other parent is “permitted” to see the child.
However, whilst there are a few exceptions; in most family situations now both parents will have equal parental rights and responsibilities and both are entitled to be involved in all important decisions.
In our view, it helps if discussions are framed against the background of the correct terminology of “residence” and “contact” which more appropriately reflects what the discussion is about.
Put the child first
Even where a separation is amicable, parents can fall into the trap of making the care arrangements for their children about them and their separation, and not about the children themselves.
We would advise to give careful consideration where there is a dispute about care arrangements as to whether what is being objected to is because what is proposed is not felt to be in the best interests of the child, or if it is actually connected to the impact it would have on the parent themselves.
Try to find a solution
In the first instance our advice would always be to try to work with the other parent to come up with an arrangement that best meets the needs of your child.
For two parents who are struggling to resolve arrangements directly between them, there are methods of alternative dispute resolution available such as mediation where a third party can try to help you and the other party to work through the issues that have arisen.
However if the arrangements cannot be agreed, the ultimate recourse is to the court. As solicitors working day to day in this field, our advice would always be to avoid court if possible.
The bottom line is that once the arrangements for the care of the child are within the remit of the court, essentially a third party will try to make the best decision they can about what is in the best interest of the child, but what is decided may not give either parent what they want..
Ultimately, communication and cooperation between both parents is key to reducing conflict.
Sally Nash is a Senior Associate in Gilson Gray’s Family Law Team. She has worked exclusively in the field of family law for the last 15 years.
For more information or guidance on dealing with issues related to family law, visit www.gilsongray.co.uk
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