It’s an unfortunate fact. Sometimes couples make the decision to separate and it’s rarely an easy decision. However, if you are married with kids, going through a divorce is especially tough. While many factors play a part in a divorce, one of the most contentious areas is deciding who children will stay with once their parents are no longer living together.
Building a new normal for your family
And at a time when our children have already been through such great upheaval, parents who are divorcing need to work hard to keep things as normal as possible for their kids, but how do you manage this when a marriage has broken down?
Minimising the impact
Through our years of experience dealing with families in this situation, we know that parents who have a good understanding of their options can make better choices for the future of their families. Children expect their parents to have all the answers, so making sure you understand the process means you will be in a better position to keep life as normal as possible for the children – and this is one of the most important things you need to consider each step of the way.
In many divorce cases, the issue of where the children will stay is settled amicably between the spouses and the children themselves. But in cases where an agreement can’t be reached, the courts have to get involved to make a decision and this is where things can become problematic.
Studies have shown that, unsurprisingly, keeping life as normal as possible for children following a divorce (e.g. staying in the family home and having contact with both parents), minimises the negative impact on them. So, if you’re divorcing, this article will give you some insight into your options to help the process to run as smoothly as possible, so you can get the best outcome for all.
Things the courts will consider
If arrangements for children are being decided by a court, bear in mind the court will take all the circumstances into account including:
- The respective houses of the parents: who will stay in the family home; the size and suitability of homes and the proximity to the children’s school.
- Schooling: ideally, children will stay at their current schools.
- Friends & Family: if children have family ties and friends in the area where the family home is located, the court will look at this as a factor.
- The children’s preferences: if the children are deemed mature enough, their opinions about who they’d like to live with will be taken into account.
The court’s paramount consideration is always the best interests of the children.
Arranging shared care
We have many clients who want to operate a shared care arrangement and there are a number of ways to do this. Below we outline the most popular options for shared care and the pros and cons of each, although each family’s situation is unique.
- Alternate weeks: The benefit of this option is that it gives the children a longer period of time in each home, rather than having to move frequently, so they can feel more settled. This can be a good option if both homes are handy for schools and the children are happy being away from one parent for a week at a time.
- Split the week in half: This option can be confusing for children and can only work if both homes are close to each other. But it does reduce the absence time from both parents and can work if a good routine is established, especially for older children.
- Weekends: In some cases, a good option is one parent having the children during the week and them staying with the other one at weekends. This helps to instil a good sense of routine and can also work well where one parent has moved away from the child’s school for example. It can also be beneficial if one partner works long hours during the week or works
- Ad-hoc arrangements: For some families, ad-hoc arrangements for the children may be the best option as they allow for flexibility on all sides. These tend to work better with older children where establishing a routine is not so important. As long as all parties are in agreement, more flexible living arrangements can work out fine.
Keeping the conversation going
Without a doubt, it’s best all round if an amicable agreement can be reached between the parents on arrangements for the children after a divorce. If divorcing couples can sit down to talk about the future of the family, a better outcome is always possible. Many children from families who have been through a divorce enjoy a happy and stable future with great relationships with both parents. This is the most desirable outcome for all as you work together to build a new normal for your family.
Here’s a quick recap of the main points from the article:
- Children who have regular contact with both parents after a divorce are usually happier and can have fewer issues in the future.
- If your dispute about the children goes to court, the court will take a number of things into account such as schooling, social life and the child’s preferences (if mature enough).
- There are a variety of ways to make shared care arrangements work, including alternate weeks, splitting the week in half and one partner having the children at the weekend.
- Agreeing arrangements without court involvement (for example, through mediation) is normally preferable.
You might also be interested to:
- Read our webpage on different options for dispute resolution: How Can I Resolve My Dispute?
- Watch our Head of Family Law, Fiona Rasmusen, run through her Five Top Tips on How To Divorce Well.
- 7 Things You Need to Know About Divorce in Scotland
- 31 Questions to Ask Your Divorce Lawyer