How to make child arrangements less painful for everyone, especially the children

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When relationships end or there are disagreements, emotions can run high and talking and reaching agreement can seem like the hardest thing to do.

Every situation will be different and depends on the unique circumstances of your family unit. Whatever happens, it is imperative that the children’s interests are prioritised no matter how acrimonious the break up.

The children’s best interests are certainly the Courts paramount consideration within proceedings when tasked to determine what the child arrangements should be, who the children are to live with and how much time they spend with each parent.

The presumption is that it is in a child’s best interests to have contact with each parent, unless there are welfare reasons not to. It is in everyone’s interests to keep any negotiations/proceedings in respect of child arrangements as calm and as smooth as possible.

How can you do that and get the best outcome for your children? Here is our five-point guide:

#1 – Always keep your children’s best interests at the centre of any decision

It is easy to lose focus in a complicated relationship breakdown, but it is important to remember that the whole family are also affected by the events too. It is time to put your own personal feelings aside and keep your children’s interests at the centre of every decision.

#2 – Look to attend mediation

Sometimes you may need a little help to get effective communication started. If you are a parent a skilled mediator/independent neutral third party can help you focus on what is best for your children and your family, so you are more likely to reach an agreement, saving you valuable time, cost and angst. For more information on mediation please speak with a member of our Mediation Team at Ashtons who would be happy to assist.

#3 – Keep the lines of communication open

Communication breakdown can not only increase tensions (which the children will ultimately pick up on) but also has a knock-on effect on arrangements. The best solution for all involved is to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, so that the children can regain a degree of stability in their lives. If there has been a wholesale breakdown in communication think about communicating via an independent third party and/or legal representative to keep the ball rolling in respect of negotiations.

#4 – Reduce animosity

Children are far more astute than they are often given credit for and will frequently know if their parents are having relationship problems. They do not however need to know the specifics of negotiations and should never witness hostile disagreements, this is poor behaviour and will not be looked upon favourably by the Court. If your children are struggling to come to terms with your relationship breakdown you can always seek assistance from your GP and there is also a lot of literature of how best to support children on Relate’s website – https://www.relate.org.uk.

#5 – Think about the future

Reaching agreement in respect of child arrangements can be emotionally draining and challenging, make sure you obtain independent legal advice before finalising any agreement. There may be issues/long-term implications that you had not thought of. You may also wish to formalise your agreement so that it is binding and enforceable. Speak with a member of our Family Law Specialists at Ashtons who would be happy provide you with more information and book you in for a free initial interview (up to 45 minutes).

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