Important matters to consider for your children when separating or getting divorced

Leading on from our post last week entitled “How to minimise the negative effect on your children when getting divorced”, learn more today about the “welfare checklist” and time spent with an absent parent, plus answers to 4 of the most common questions asked.

Apply for a divorce in Chichester

The ‘Welfare Checklist’

In any case in relation to children the Court will consider what is in the best interests of the children as its ‘paramount concern’ and in deciding this, it will take into account the following in all matters relating to the children:-

  1. The wishes and feelings of the child, considered in the light of his or her age and maturity;
  2. The physical, emotional and educational needs of the child;
  3. The likely effect on any change in circumstances of the child;
  4. His or her age, sex, background and any characteristics which the Court may consider relevant;
  5. Any harm which he or she has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
  6. How capable each of the parents are at meeting his or her needs;
  7. The range of powers available to the Court.

There are several overriding principals. One of these is that the Court should not intervene in any set of circumstances, unless it has to. Generally speaking therefore, the Court will leave circumstances as they are, unless there is a good reason to change them.

Also, that any delay in deciding any issues should be avoided as they are generally prejudicial to the child or children’s’ interests.

Time spent with the absent parent

The starting point as set out in the new Act is that the children should have a good ongoing relationship with the absent parent and, wherever possible, that relationship should include direct contact between the parent and child as much as possible, including overnight stays.

Clearly this will be easier if the parties live in the same locality.

It is accepted, however, that the parent with care must also enjoy “quality time” with the children and it is therefore not reasonable for one parent to enjoy every weekend with the children.

The level of flexibility, in terms of time spent with each parent, will depend upon particular circumstances, including how close the parents live to each other, the work commitments of the parties etc, as well as the wishes of the children given their ages.

Common questions

If my spouse does not pay towards the upkeep of the children, can I stop him or her from spending time with the children?

No. It is not considered appropriate to link the time spent with the other parent to financial matters.

Do I have to force the children to see the other parent if they do not want to go?

This will depend upon the circumstances and, in particular, the age of the children. It is important to, as much as possible, promote a positive image of the absent parent to the child and to encourage them to want to go and see the other parent. It is important for the non resident parent to try and ensure the children do activities which they enjoy, for example, swimming etc.

Do the children have to stay overnight?

Again, this will depend upon the circumstances, not least the practical arrangements. If the absent parent lives some distance from the children, the overnight stays may be necessary. The wishes of the children must also be considered in this regard. We will endeavour to answer any further questions on this point.

Can I force my spouse to see the children if he or she does not wish to?

It is generally very difficult to force someone to see the children if they are unwilling.

We hope  that you  have found this post useful, but if you require any further information on this subject or the fees we charge, including fixed fees, please do not hesitate in contacting Sara Fildes via email on sarafildes@owenkenny.co.uk or call her on 01243 790532.