Agreeing division of time with children

We are separating. If we cannot agree the arrangements for the division of time with our children, how will the court enable us to share the children?

Whilst it is right that the majority of parents who separate reach their own agreements about the caring arrangements for their children, when disputes arise, then there is a risk that the children’s’ needs are overlooked.

The head of the family law team analyses the current considerations when the court is required to look at where the children will live, and whether it is appropriate to make an order which provides for the sharing of those arrangements.

In June this year the Government issued a consultation paper on the subject, in order to try and improve the way in which such court decisions are made, so that more focus is given to the parents’ roles in the childrens’ upbringing.

  • The ascertainable wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s age and maturity
  • The child’s physical, emotional and educational needs, and how capable each parent is of meeting the child’s needs
  • The child’s age, sex, background, and any other relevant circumstances
  • Any harm that the child has suffered, or is at risk of suffering
  • How capable each of the parents of the child in meeting its needs, or any other person, whom the court considers to be relevant, is of meeting those needs
  • The likely effect on the child of any change in circumstances
  • The range of powers available to the court.

The Government’s proposals have suggested four ways in which the welfare checklist might be altered:

Option 1: That the court would start with the presumption that a child’s welfare is furthered by having safe involvement with both parents, unless evidence shows otherwise.

Option 2: That the court starts with the presumption that a child’s welfare is furthered by having safe involvement with both parents.

Option 3: That the court starts when making about a decision about the child’s care is that a child’s welfare is likely to be furthered by the involvement of both parents.

Option 4: To use the welfare checklist and add an additional factor for the court to consider in line with the above.

Whilst we await the way in which this might develop, it can only be for the better, given that all too often a parent when separating finds themselves suddenly cut off from their children, leaving the other parent calling all the shots. As it is now, the law does not fully recognise the important role that both parents can play in a child’s life, and so it is hoped that changes will promote a position whereby both parents have the chance to play a full role in their child’s life.

We should aim to prevent a child being used as a weapon, and to avoid the marble counting in terms of time spent with each parent. We should focus on the child’s needs. These proposals are unlikely to shift an emphasis to a 50:50 division of time, because the courts are of the view that a child should have the stability of a main base. Yet it should go a long way to improve the current position.

The consultation period concluded at the beginning of September, so we now await the outcome.

Please contact our specialist family law team, to discuss this issue, or any other issue of family law or relationship breakdown.

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