How to Manage Child Arrangements During a Divorce or Separation

When yourself and your partner end your relationship, you will need to try and make agreements on anything that will involve your children. This includes where they’ll live, what school they will go to and how you will divide costs.

At VM Family Law, we have many years of experience helping families in this exact situation and we’re here to help you too. 

Who is responsible for children?

In general, mothers will usually automatically have parental responsibility for their children from birth. Fathers will usually have parental responsibility if they were married to the mother of their children, or are listed on the child’s birth certificate. 

At what age can a child decide which parent to live with?

Once a child turns 16, they are legally allowed to decide which parent they wish to live with. Until then, those with parental responsibility will choose for the child where they are to live and if they cannot agree then the Family Court can determine the issue. 

However, parents may find that from ages below 16, children will express their views on where they wish to live. It is important at any age for a child to feel heard and understood by their parents and the older the child, the more emphasis will be placed on their wishes and feelings when determining a dispute regarding them. 

What to consider when managing children in a divorce or a separation

It is usually easier, and cheaper, for everyone involved to reach an amicable agreement about your children. Some of the things you will need to consider include:

  • Which parent will the child live with for most of the time
  • How much time they will spend with each parent 
  • When and how this contact will take place 
  • If any other contact will take place, such as phone calls/facetime/texts

You don’t need to put an agreement in writing for these sorts of things, however, it can help to ensure everyone is aware of the agreed arrangements. 

Obtaining a Child Arrangements Order

If arrangements cannot be agreed, the next step is to ask the court to make a Child Arrangements Order. When making a Child Arrangements Order, a court cannot be biased towards either parent, but they are required to act in the best interests of the child. 

A Child Arrangements Order will specify where a child lives and the level of contact granted to each parent and how this will take place. 

Do you need to get a Child Arrangements Order?

If all parties can come to an agreement by themselves, then you may not need to actually get a child arrangements order provided the parties have Parental Responsibility. However, having the order will give you security in the form of a legally binding Court Order which can be enforced if a dispute occurs in the future. 

What are the most common child arrangements after divorce/separation?

There are many different types of child agreements and it varies depending on a family’s individual circumstance and the needs of the child.  Each situation is different and there may be different arrangements made for term time, school holidays and important occasions such as Christmas, Birthdays and any other type of celebration event. 

What to do if you can’t agree on child arrangements during a divorce or separation

If you and your partner are struggling to reach an agreement about your child, then you may wish to try mediation before you head to a solicitor or to the Family Court. 

If you wish to mediate, then a mediator will arrange an individual appointment for you alone first to determine whether your case is suitable for mediation. If so, then they will contact your former partner to arrange joint sessions and help you to agree on child arrangements. 

If you choose to go to court for a Child Arrangements Order, you will need to prove that you went to an introductory meeting with a mediator known as a ‘mediation information and assessment meeting’ (MIAM) before you will be able to apply to Court. 

If you do choose to use the court route, a specialist family solicitor can help you. At VM Family Law, we have many years of experience helping families to come to an agreement about the welfare of their child or children. Whether your ex-partner is not cooperating or you are struggling to come to a final agreement, we can help. Contact us today for more information. 

Our goal is to help our clients solve their family legal matters as smoothly as possible.

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