“Parents do not have rights, they have responsibilities”
How well in practice can the two align?
Child Arrangements Orders regulate with whom and for how long a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with a person. The types of Orders available to the Court are:
- A “Live with Order” – an Order setting out with whom the child should live; and
- A “Spending time with Order” – an Order setting out the amount of time the child should spend visiting or staying overnight with the person named, whether that time should be supervised or unsupervised.
A joint “Live with Order” whereby the child lives with both parents does not necessarily mean that there is an equal division of time. Courts can make a joint “Live with Order” whereby the child technically lives with both parents but may only live with one of them on alternate weekends and one night mid-week for example. A straight equal division of time is instead termed a “shared care arrangement” and this is where a child most commonly has a one week on – one week off arrangement between both parents.
A “shared care arrangement” that seeks a 50/50 division of time between the parents is unusual but it is becoming more common. The Court will always come from the starting point that it is in the child’s best interests to have the active involvement of both parents in their life. However, part of the wider assessment has to be how the arrangement will work in practice. In order for an equal division of time to work in practice, and for the child to move seamlessly between their parents, good communication is required between the parents. For a child to live their life between two homes, organisation and a willingness on both parents part to make it work is required. There will be forgotten homework and friends’ birthday parties that sometimes means that the normal arrangement has to be changed. These everyday issues will require constant communication and careful consideration has to be given to the impact on the child if there is a poor relationship between the parents. One may therefore have the “right” to an equal shared care arrangement but this has to sit alongside the “responsibility” to balance the time the child spends with one parent with the quality of such time taking into account everything else that comes with a shared care arrangement.It is always best to try to avoid Court proceedings of course because the Judge can only make an Order. An Order does not enforce itself and if someone does not comply with the Order or takes a “work to rule” approach, matters can continue to be difficult.