What Happens to Children During a Divorce?
Whilst separation and divorce are the only outcome for some couples, the process can have a staggering affect on children. Any individual under the age of 18 in the family home is considered a child and their welfare will be paramount in the eyes of the court, as per the Children Act of 1989.
Whilst some separating couples manage to agree on where the children will live and how time with each parent is divided, sometimes a mediator will be needed to iron out any minor disagreements. A solicitor can be used to make any child-related agreements legally binding.
What happens if we do not agree about our children?
Child living arrangements can be terribly difficult to agree on and are the primary reason so many divorces and separations end up having to be resolved in court. Potentially living in a situation where you will not see your child everyday can be incredibly emotional and it is understandable why arguments can occur.
If you cannot agree on the best outcome for your children, then mediation or collaborative law will need to be considered. Going to court and letting a judge decide how you and your ex-partner should arrange your children should be a last resort. You should both be realistic about the needs of your children, do what is best for their needs and put your feelings aside.
Do our children have any legal say in what they wish?
Whilst children should not be involved in divorce proceedings parents are advised to get their feedback on what they’d like to happen. Whilst they do not have a legal say so until they are 18 it is important to listen to their needs and wishes during such a difficult time. It is surprising how perceptive and understanding children can be and legal professionals will take into account what children say even if they are under 18.
When children are under 18 parents can make all decisions for them; what school to attend, whether they should be inoculated, what religion to follow. This is known as parental responsibility.
During divorces, mothers automatically have parent responsibility. Fathers have the same level of parental responsibility if they are on the child’s birth certificate or both parties were married at the time of birth.
However, fathers can obtain parental responsibility via:
- Marrying the mother of the child
- Applying to the court
- Making a parental agreement with the mother
- Being granted a residence order
- Being appointed as the child’s guardian
If both parents have responsibility, they will be responsible for the child’s welfare until they are 18.
What is shared residence?
In most cases where both parents have responsibility, and it is of benefit to the child or children, then joint residence will be put into effect. It describes the process by which children are allowed to alternate living with each parent. This means parents do not require visitation or contact rights. One week a child may stay with Mum and the following week stay with Dad.
Divorce and children
Establishing a parenting agreement without legal intervention is to the benefit of any children involved in a divorce or separation. Whilst it can feel like ‘fighting’ for your children is the right course of action, actually sitting down and deciding what is best for them is key. The courts will also appreciate any outcomes agreed amicably by two parties.