Child arrangements – what do I need to consider and what is a “usual” arrangement?

The two main considerations for your child/ren upon separation are usually, who they will live with (formerly known as residence), and who they will spend time with (formerly known as contact or access).

Any parent who has previously lived with a child full-time could be, understandably, concerned about spending less time with them. There is a legal presumption that parental involvement in a child’s life will further a child’s welfare, unless there is evidence to suggest that the involvement of that parent would put the child at risk of suffering harm

In deciding child arrangements, the focus needs to be on what it is in the child’s best interests. Every child and situation are unique, some children will thrive in a “shared care” situation, where they spend approximately equal time with both parents. Older children may want the independence to flow between two homes when they decide. Other children may need to spend more time in one base during term time with a very different arrangement in school holidays. 

Add differing work patterns, geographical locations, starting or moving schools, differing support networks, parental communication, new siblings and partners and things can very easily become overwhelming. 

Essential considerations are:-

  • What is best for your child, which may be different from what each parent wants. 
  • That a separation does not diminish the love a child has for their parents, whatever you think of your former partner, your child is likely to be harmed by exposure to adult discussions and opinions. 
  • Listening to your child and trying to put yourself in their shoes, but not making them responsible for making decisions or choosing a parent. 

Also think about:-

  • Term time arrangements.
  • Holiday arrangements. 
  • Christmas time and other celebrations, whether faith based or important to you as a family.
  • Birthdays. 
  • Mother’s and Father’s Day. 
  • Indirect contact such as telephone and video contact. 
  • Handovers.

Finally, any child arrangements, whether agreed or imposed by the court need a certain amount of flexibility. Children grow and circumstances change. What works for a 3 year old, most likely won’t work for a 13 year old. 

Although a “usual order” may mean a child living mostly with one parent, spending every other weekend and a teatime contact with the other parent, plus half of all school holidays and alternating special occasion contact, there is no one size fits all approach. 

RLK Solicitors can help support and guide you through reaching an agreement on child arrangements, or, if that is not possible, the court process. RLK Solicitors have experienced family law solicitors able to advise upon the factors most relevant to your circumstances and how these should be taken into account. A realistic approach often saves both time and money.

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