At MyBump2Baby we are proud to work with family law solicitors throughout the UK. Today we share an expert post from our Family Law Solicitors in Pickering – Crombie Wilkinson Solicitors . They answer a question many parents have when separating “How often will I see my children if we separate?”
A question often asked by parents going through separation is ‘What are the rules on contact with my children?’
The short answer is there are no “rules” in terms of defining a child arrangement contact pattern as every family is different and each case is judged on its own merits. Whether you are going to be the Resident parent (parent with who the children live for the majority) or the Non Resident parent the law is very clear on one thing and that is the involvement of both parents in the children lives is going to further their welfare unless there are significant welfare concerns. In plain English unless the other parent poses a risk of harm to the child, the child should be spending time with that parent.
The vast majority of parents will agree upon a sensible arrangement that ensures the children enjoy quality time with both parents but often disagreements will ensue. One parent feels they are being marginalised or simply don’t get to spend enough time with the children. If no agreement can be reached and ultimately the court is being asked to assist it will endeavour to reach an outcome that is in the best interests of the children.
Although there are no “rules” on what a particular contact pattern should be there are some broad concepts that the court will commonly adopt when there are no welfare concerns and it’s simply a case of the parents not being able to agree and they are as follows:
1. Each parent should be able to enjoy “quality contact” with the children and this generally means weekend time. The days of typically a father having the children every weekend are long gone. Alternate weekends is usually seen as the fairest way to ensure quality contact takes place
2. Alternate weekends alone are not satisfactory in that the children should not (if possible) go a fortnight without seeing the non resident parent. This means that there should really be some midweek contact also
3. When children are of school age the holiday periods should be shared evenly between the parents
4. When parents cannot agree on Christmas day and New Year’s day arrangements the court will commonly order for the arrangements to be alternated each year so that both parents have the opportunity to spend the special days with the children
What decisions do parents need to make when separating?
The first one is what type of separation they want. Children can be impacted dramatically by parental separation and as far as possible should be shielded from any acrimony. If Parents are able to have sensible and amicable discussions about their separation, great, that’s the starting point. If not, they may want to consider using 3rd parties such as Family or Friends to assist in having sensible discussions around the arrangements for the children, and if that isn’t an option professional 3rd party involvement such as a Collaborative Family Solicitor or Mediator. The main issue for most separating parents is the arrangements for the children, who will they live with, how often will they spend time with the other parent etc. Once they have determined those issues the other issues such as child maintenance, who is pay it and how much, falls into place as that’s governed by the child maintenance regime.
Who is entitled to the house if me and my partner separate?
A driving force in determining who should remain in the family home, if at all, is the needs of the children. The courts first consideration (if the couple are married) when looking at how to fairly distribute matrimonial assets is the welfare of any minor children. If one parent is to be the main carer of the children then their housing needs collectively may take priority over the other parent, but the aim of the court is to achieve fairness. Whilst it may be appropriate in some circumstances for one parent and the children to remain living in the family home, if it’s possible for both parents to start again, and buy suitable properties each for them and the children through a sale of the family home, that would be the desired outcome. If the parents are unmarried but own a home together (or one parent owns the home), similar considerations are made and if it’s not possible to buy new homes for both parents the court does have the power to order that the house is sold at a later stage (usually when the youngest child is 18 or finishing education) to allow usually the main carer to provide a suitable home for the children.
Where should the children live after separation?
Ideally with both parents. The Children Act 1989 presumes that a child’s welfare will be furthered by the involvement of both parents, the starting point being that a child should enjoy time with both their parents unless there are safeguarding reasons as to why that shouldn’t happen. There is no one size fits all and each family is different and each case is judged on its own merits, but there are some principles that are commonly followed in family courts up and down the country if parents cant agree on the arrangements for their children. Each parent is usually entitled to a clear weekend with their children so alternate weekend is generally a foundation that is built upon. The courts will also generally adopt an approach where school holiday periods are shared equally and special events such as Christmas day etc halved or alternated depending on the circumstances. If parents live close enough there is no reason why a shared care arrangement for regular weekly time couldn’t work well where children spend an equal amount of time with each parent, however, practically that doesn’t happen often due to working arrangements and other issues. In the vast majority of cases the children usually spend more time with one parent, even if that’s only a day more, for practical reasons. There is no right or wrong answer here, it’s what works best for the family as a whole.
Ultimately the court will do the best it can to ensure that any order made is in the best interests of the children taking account of what both parents want.
If you would like advice on how you can agree child contact arrangements with your partner if you are separated or divorced, please contact Greg Cross on 01751 472121, Director and solicitor in the Family Law team at Crombie Wilkinson Solicitors