Thursday, February 20, 2014

Your child and divorce

Brought to you by our friends at Slater Heelis LLP

The expert solicitors at Slater Heelis LLP provide advice for you, your family, and especially your child through the emotional difficulties of a divorce.

You’re already going through a separation from your long term partner, potentially feeling hurt, angry and the whole range of emotions in between, then you have to explain to your child why this is all happening.
How your family copes with your separation is dependent on the context, if you are coming to the end of an emotionally abusive or violent relationship then you may be facing some short term turbulence as you move from a family unit to a single parent family. In this instance it is vital that you protect any children involved from any upsetting behaviour. This includes arguments between you and your former partner, hurtful words about the other parent to family and friends in front of your child and influencing the way your child views either parent.
Protecting your child’s perception of their parent remains crucial even if that parent has proven to be a danger, or a highly disruptive figure in their lives, as far as the child is concerned they are still their parent. In cases like this it may result in that parent being withheld visitation rights, and perhaps the adult involved does not want to see the child, either of which can have a detrimental effect on the child. Children have a right to a relationship with both parents, but it is always up to the parent with parental responsibility to determine what is in the best interest of the child.


If your child is younger they may not have realised what is happening in your relationship, however, if they are older it is likely that they have and it is important to respect them by having an open and honest discussion about what comes next; particularly if one parent will be moving out of the family home or even further afield.
Each family is different, and however you cope with child custody arrangements the child’s best interests must be at the forefront of your decision making. As discussed there will be cases where having a relationship with both parents is not possible either because a parent is not safe, or because they do not wish to be present in their child’s life.
If you and your former partner both want to be involved, it is important that you make the following issues are resolved together from as early on in proceedings as possible:
  • That the child be raised by both parents; this usually entails the child having a permanent residence with both parents, even if they only stay with one of the parents for one or two nights a week.
  • Both parents are supportive of the child’s positive relationship with the other parent.
  • Children, especially young ones, understand the living arrangements and have an established routine as to when they spend time with each parent that the routine is disrupted as little as possible.
  • Parents protect their child from any ongoing conflicts between the two of them.
  • Any new partner is complicit and understanding of all child custody arrangements.
Discussing these subjects in an open manner is the often the quickest route to a successful resolution, as each partner will have an understanding of the other’s feelings and wishes.

Who has parental responsibility?

All mothers and most fathers have legal parental responsibility. From the birth of her child the mother is automatically responsible, whereas a father has parental responsibility if he is either married to the child’s mother or listed on the birth certificate. If either parent does not automatically have parental responsibility, in the instance of adoption or a civil partnership, it can be applied for.
If you have parental responsibility you must fulfil the following roles on behalf of your child:
  • Provide a home
  • Protect and maintain the child
  • Discipline them
  • Choose and provide their education
  • Agree to any medical treatment
  • Naming the child and agreeing to any name changes
  • Looking after the child’s home
While you have responsibility for a child, you will not be granted a divorce or a dissolution of a civil partnership unless you are able to prove that you have arranged how the child will be financially and physically taken care of, as well as when the child will see each parent.


If your family is currently going through a separation and you and your former partner are struggling to come to an agreement over child custody arrangements, an alternative method of dispute resolution such as mediation could increase your chance of reaching a compromise that you can both be happy with.
The mediation process involves both parties discussing their problems with an impartial third party over three to five sessions. It is therefore dependent on your personal situation as to whether this approach is suitable for you. During mediation you are each free to consult your own solicitor for legal advice, then when you have come to an agreement this can be approved by your solicitor who will complete the legal formalities.
We have a specialist team of family law solicitors at Manchester based firm Slater Heelis, provide supportive and clear advice, using a pragmatic yet understanding approach to our clients. We will help you deal with the legal formalities of your divorce or dissolution while you focus on the future of your family.

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