Problems with Child Arrangements
Raising children is not an easy task and when you and the other parent are no longer living together following divorce or separation, it can be particularly tricky.
Some changes and alterations to agreed arrangements for children will be organic and necessary as both parents settle into new routines but if a parent repeatedly breaches a child arrangements order put in place by a family court, it can be very upsetting and possibly damaging to the children.
If there has been a serious breach of a court order you may be able to go back to the family court to enforce it and/or to vary it but there are other methods you can try first if it is safe to do so.
Goodsells Family Law can help if you are having problems with child arrangements and need legal advice about your rights and the available solutions.
Common issues with arrangements for children
When you agree child arrangements following divorce and separation, it's likely you will agree days and times that the children will spend with each parent and arrangements for day-to-day routines such as school pick-ups and regular appointments, etc.
Sometimes, as newly separated parents find their feet in their new lives, the original arrangements become unworkable, and this is fairly common. However, if this results in children being left waiting outside school gates or if planned visits regularly fail, then such patterns can be harmful to the children. Ultimately, the welfare of the children should be the primary consideration of the parents (and the Court), so, if child arrangements are no longer working, whether they have been put in place by a court or mutually agreed without an order, it will be necessary to change them
Parental responsibility and the child's right to have a relationship with both parents
The law gives anyone with parental responsibility certain rights in respect of their children and it also confers certain obligations. Having parental responsibility does not automatically mean you will spend time with your child, but the law does acknowledge that whenever possible and safe children should be able to maintain relationships with both parents. This means that the person with whom the children live cannot withhold contact from the non-resident parent unless a court rules as such.
Ultimately, when thinking about why arrangements for children are not working, it's important to consider what's best for the children – just because the arrangements are not working for you in terms of fitting in with your life, does not mean the court will vary the order.
Talk to the other parent
When there are problems with your child arrangements, the first step should, if possible, be to talk to the other parent. If you find this difficult, you may want to write down the aspects that are causing problems so that you can present them in a clear and reasonable manner.
Try not to 'ambush' the other parent; doorstep arguments in front of the children are really not advisable and rarely end up resolving problems. By informing the other parent beforehand that you wish to discuss the arrangements, they will be able to consider the situation and formulate their own thoughts on the subject.
Mediation can be a useful tool in addressing issues relating to child arrangements as it can help couples seek solutions to disputes with the help of an independent, trained third party in a neutral space.
Legal negotiation with family law solicitors
If face-to-face discussions with the other parent are not possible, you and the other parent could appoint solicitors to negotiate on your behalf. This can be an option to try before making an application to the Family Court as experienced family law solicitors will have a wealth of knowledge and will be able to negotiate clearly on your behalf.
This approach is also recommended if you feel that you might need to go to court to seek a child arrangements order or to vary an existing order in the near future, as you will already have discussed the dispute with your family law solicitor.
Apply for a child arrangements order or vary an existing one
Some separating couples will be able to agree child care arrangements without the need to go to court, but even these agreements can fail after a period of time. If you feel you need to apply to the court for a child arrangements order, you should seek legal advice from a family law solicitor who will be able to explain both your rights and how the process works.
If a parent has breached an existing court order you may be able to apply to the Family Court to enforce the order or to seek a variation of the original order. You may be required to attend a court hearing.
Whatever the circumstances, the Court will want you to show how the arrangements have been breached, that the breaches are consistent and repeated and that there is no valid reason why the breaches should occur. The Court will also seek to understand why the changes or enforcement you are seeking will be in the child's best interest.
Speak to a family law solicitor in London about child arrangement problems
We understand that this is an emotional subject and that your situation is unique and pressing, so we always provide sensitive, pragmatic legal advice in relation to all child law issues.