Coming to an agreement about future child care arrangement, such as where and with whom the children live and how much contact they have with the non resident parent can be one of the most difficult aspects of divorce or separation. Careful consideration needs to be given to what arrangements need to made, and whether these arrangements are in the best interests of the children. Our Family Law solicitors can guide you through the legal rights and responsibilities (known as Parental Rights and Responsibilities) you have in relation to your children. This may vary for fathers, depending on whether you were married to the mother at the time of birth. We aim to ensure that we give the appropriate advice to ensure that the best arrangements can be made for both you and your children. In the first instance, we try to reach agreement by negotiation, and the courts should only be seen as a last resort. We can advise you on the other options available such as Family Mediation and Collaborative Family Law. We can also advise you on maintenance and when to involve the Child Maintenance & Enforcement Commission (formally known as the Child Support Agency).
If negotiations break down, you may need to apply to the Court to regulate arrangements for your children. In particular, the court can make orders for Residence (formally called custody) and for Contact (formerly called access). A residence order usually requires the child to live with one parent, but can provide for the child to live with each parent at different times. A contact order is usually made where the child has his home with one parent and sees the other on a regular basis. The child’s view will also require to be taken into account, particularly if they are over 12. The Courts will however only make an order if it is in the best interest of the children.
Please see our other Family Law pages for further information.