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Children issues

How the separation will affect your children is important. Many people forget that children become adults and they will remember how you and your partner behaved towards each other. If you can agree the arrangements for how they will spend time with you and your partner, then the court will not need to be involved. If you can agree the arrangements, the chances are they will work for the children and for you. This way you are likely to be able to preserve an amicable relationship with your partner, after all, your relationship with your partner will continue even after the children have grown up and you will both want to be present at important occasions, such as graduation ceremonies, weddings, christenings and birthdays for example.

If you are unable to agree the arrangements between yourselves, or through negotiations between solicitors or the Collaborative process or Mediation, then an application may have to be made to the court.  The most common applications the court will be asked to consider are Child Arrangement Orders (CAO). CAO’s regulate with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with a person. For example, if you and your partner have separated and you want your child to live with you, but cannot agree on this, then you may need to apply to the court for a CAO regulating your child's living arrangements. Alternatively if you have agreed that your child will live with one parent but cannot agree the amount of time that your child will spend with the parent who they do not live with, you may  need to apply to the court for a CAO regulating contact arrangements

Once an application has been made to the court, often the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) becomes involved. A Cafcass Officer appointed by the court is independent and has experience in working with children and families. An Officer may provide a preliminary indication to the court about how to progress your application which may include recommending that there should be a full report to enable them to investigate your circumstances and speak not only to yourselves, but also the children (depending upon their ages).

When assessing the situation, the Officer will take into account various factors such as:-

  • The childrens’ ages
  • Their wishes and feelings (considered in light of their age and understanding)
  • Their emotional and educational needs
  • The likely effect on them of any change in circumstances

The court can follow the recommendation of the Cafcass Officer unless there is good reason not to.

If either you or your partner decide not to accept the recommendations of the Cafcass Officer, the court will then expect you and your partner to prepare witness statements. You will both then be expected to give evidence at a hearing when the court will decide what is in the interests of your children.

It should be noted that where there are allegations of abuse involved, the procedure can become more complicated as the court may be asked to consider the allegations of abuse further before a decision can be made about the application that is before the court i.e. to determine where a child/children should live or how often they should see the parent that they do not live with full-time.

It is possible for a parent to make an application to the court about a Specific Issue e.g. a child’s schooling, medical care etc.

If there are allegations of abuse against children and/or threats to snatch a child the court may make an Order preventing a parent from removing a child from the parent they live with.

If you require further information please contact one of our specialist divorce and family lawyers:

Swati Somaiya
Direct Dial 0116 242 1255
Mobile 07739 507 532
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Dawn Salter
Direct Dial 0116 242 1297
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