Divorce: who gets the kids?

Going through a divorce, civil partnership dissolution or separating from a partner when you have children to consider can be particularly traumatic for the entire family. Parents will naturally be very concerned about minimising the impact on the children, but will need to make important decisions about day-to-day arrangements for the children, starting with where they will live and how often they will spend with each parent.

Rebecca Massam, divorce and family law expert at Warners Solicitors in Kent provides some useful advice for parents on what to think about when trying to decide how to handle separation or divorce and children.

Who decides who the children are to live with?

Ideally, parents would come to a mutual agreement about arrangements for children. However, at Warners Solicitors we understand that this may not be possible for lots of reasons. Discussing what will happen to your children on divorce can be very difficult, especially when emotions are high and so it is often helpful to obtain legal advice early on, so that you can consider all your options.

For example, many parents find that having a neutral third-party family law mediator can help discussions remain amicable and focussed on what is in the children’s best interests. Alternatively, where mediation is not appropriate, you may feel supported by a solicitor who is able to assist with negotiations through letters or emails.

Reaching an agreement

When you have negotiated an agreement about the children, you can have it formalised in writing by a specialist solicitor and signed by both of you. The agreement can cover matters such as:

  • who the children will live with;
  • how much time they will spend with each parent and when;
  • arrangements for school holidays, Easter and Christmas;
  • arrangements for travelling abroad on holiday;
  • handover arrangements; and
  • other forms of contact that may be used, such as Facetime and phone calls.

This agreement can then be made legally binding by the family court and your solicitor can make an application on your behalf.

If matters between the parents are amicable, both are able to continue to parent together despite being separated and both have a workable arrangement in place, then there is no need for there to be a formal agreement or order put in place. The courts work on the basis that it is better for the children if there is no order at all, provided the parents can both continue to work in the best interests of the child.

What if we cannot agree?

If you cannot agree on what will happen with your divorce and children, you may have to ask for assistance from the court. There will be a number of hearings where the court will assist in helping the parents to work out what the issues are, and how they can best overcome them, giving them the opportunity to reach an agreement about how to move forward.

Ultimately, however, if necessary, the court can, and will impose a decision upon the family which it considers to be in the children’s best interests. In doing so, the Judge will ensure that the welfare of the children takes paramount consideration, but will also consider various other factors such as the children’s ages, their physical, emotional and educational needs, and can take into account their wishes and feelings, once they are old enough to effectively communicate them.

Going to court can be an expensive and emotionally draining time, and the outcome may not be what you might have expected Our family lawyers will listen to your individual situation and help you try and find a constructive solution that works for your family, and offer you various means of attempting to reach an agreement before an application to court becomes necessary.

For further information on arrangements for children, please contact Rebecca Massam in the divorce and family law team on 01732 747916 or email [email protected]. Warners Solicitors has offices in Tonbridge and Sevenoaks, Kent.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.

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