- Children right to have a meaningful relationship with both parents.
A common misconception is parental rights to a relationship with a child. This is wrong, it is the child’s right to a relationship with their parents. However, careful consideration also needs to be given as to any prospective risk of harm posed to that child by having contact with a parent.
- How should you Communicate?
The majority of cases that end up before the Court are those where communication is extremely poor or non-existent. Parents willing to communicate, will always find it easier to reach an agreement.
- It’s the holidays, what happens then?
It’s important that the child gets to spend quality time with both parents. Very often parents forget about the holiday periods, and when a weekly arrangement is in place, it is only when the holidays come that their mistake is realised. This is often too late to sort out this issue before the child returns to school. Parents looking to reach an agreement should ensure that holiday contact including all of the school holiday periods, Christmas, birthdays and time on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
- Labels, labels, labels…
The way children orders have been labelled has changed over the years. Once upon a time there were Custody Orders and access, then we had Residence and Contact Orders. Now we have Live with and Spend time with Orders. The Courts are also keen to recognise the importance of the role that both parents play in a child’s life. Shared Care Orders are not uncommon. Shared Care does not mean a 50/50 split of the time that the child spends with a parent, but that the parents share the responsibility of the care of the child.
- Determine what are the child’s own wishes and feelings.
For any agreement to work both parents should be in agreement and of course the child should be aware. Older children often will have their wishes and feelings taken into consideration as part of any family order. It is rare that children beyond the age of 12 are forced to comply with an order they themselves disagree with. Even with younger children some consideration must be given. Arrangements where children are showing high levels of distress are highly likely to end up back in court.
If parents can follow these simple steps, they can reach agreements that can benefit both the child and the parents in the longer term.