Where parents decide to separate, one of the most important decisions to make is how the children share their time between their parents. The Court has moved away from labelling parents’ roles and removed terms such as “custody or residence” and “contact”. The Court now adopts a more holistic approach when considering whether children should live with one or both parents, and also as to the time they spend with each parent.
There are still many misconceptions in relation to this including:
- That working parents are unable to share care of their children. Most employers will take childcare into account and enable parents to work flexibly to meet the needs of their children. This has recently been highlighted during the Pandemic as most employers have enabled staff to work flexibly and this is expected to continue.
- A presumption that the Court favours the Mother. There is no discrimination based on a parents gender by the Court, and the if the Court is being asked to determine the arrangements, the primary objective would be to implement an arrangement which is in the children’s best interests, and allows them to benefit from a meaningful relationship with both their parents.
- Many people believe that shared care means equal care. A shared care arrangement can work flexibly and does not mean there needs to be an equal division of time. The Court can make an Order that a child lives with both parents in circumstances where there is an unequal division of time. The Court has emphasised that it is in children’s best interests for parents to be able to co-parent and both play an active role in their children’s lives.
Parents are encouraged to reach an agreement, if possible, regarding the arrangements for their children. Before either parent can ask the Court to determine the arrangements, they should be assessed for mediation which can offer a swift, amicable and more cost effective way of reaching an agreement, and which enables parents to continue to communicate.
The Court is therefore only likely to be required to make a determination regarding child arrangements where parties are unable to agree, if mediation is unsuitable or unsuccessful or in circumstances where there may be welfare or safeguarding issues.
If you are having difficulty with children arrangements, then please contact us for a confidential initial discussion.