When it comes to our children following separation it is one of the most emotive times and brings forward the difficult decisions and realties that separated parents face. Sadly, the reality of not being in the same household as your most precious creation can send shockwaves through people and the reality becomes too much to consider rationally leading to the creation of conflict.
When parents separate the most important thing to remember is the Welfare of your child, the focus should be solely on what is in the child’s best interests and the child’s right to have a relationship with both parents. Clearly we accept that there are exceptions to the rule, where there are genuine welfare and safeguarding concerns which can include Domestic Abuse, and additional safeguards need to be implemented to ensure that the child is protected from any risk of harm.
All too often I am asked the following questions from clients who are unable to reach amicable arrangements for their children:
What are my Rights?
The thing to remember is, where parents are married, or where a child was born after 01 December 2003 and the father is named on the birth certificate both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for a child, both hold Parental Responsibility and neither parent has more rights than the other. Parents need to remember that it is their responsibility to work together for the best interests of the children.
The difficulty arises where parents are unable to communicate, and one parent attempts to dictate the arrangements for the children to spend time with the other. Sadly, where parents are unable to agree the focus needs to remain the children, the first way to attempt to resolve parental disputes is to consider attending at Mediation and if unsuccessful either negotiation with the assistance of an experienced family Solicitor or an application to the Court to consider the arrangements.
Unfortunately, it often feels like one parent is dictating the arrangements for the children, however both parents if they share Parental Responsibility have equal rights and responsibilities.
A good Family Solicitor will be empathetic to your situation and as an impartial person will be able to guide you and offer measured advice and support.
Why do they get more of say? How come they can dictate?
Sometimes, it feels that one parent is dictating the arrangements for the children, and it is difficult without a Court Order in place determining the specific arrangements. As a parent you need to consider the impact that your actions have upon the children. Often when one parent will not agree to the children spending time with the other parent whilst waiting for negotiations to take place or the Court to determine the issue may take a child centred approach that they will just accept what is proposed by the other parent until the Court can evaluate the situation and consider the arrangements that are best for the children. Any sudden changes or reactions to the other parent’s behaviours can negatively and directly impact the children.
There is a process in place, the process does take time and the process has to be followed.
Do I have to go to Mediation?
Before you can issue a Court application you must attend at Mediation for a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM). In the initial meeting, which is for you alone, the Mediator will discuss mediation and the process with you at length to enable you to make an informed decision. Mediation is voluntary, and if you or the mediator do not feel that mediation is a suitable avenue to assist with the resolution of your dispute then they will provide you with the necessary form which you will need to issue an application with the Court.
Have you recently separated? Are you unsure of what arrangements would be in your child’s best interests? Does the other parent feel they know what is best and is unwilling to negotiate or communicate with you? If you have any queries or questions in relation to your specific circumstances, every case is different, every child has differing needs, contact our Children Specialist Louise Butcher at the Chesterfield Office on 01246 224867 for an initial free 30-minute consultation to discuss your circumstances and how best Louise can assist in reaching a Resolution.
Next Week we will look at the Courts and their role.