Q. My partner and I have separated. We have two children together. Who gets to decide the arrangements for the children?
Neither parent automatically “gets to decide”. Wherever possible, arrangements should be worked out together, in the best interests of the children.
When parents are together, lots of arrangements for the children’s time are made as a matter of course, including things like holidays, after-school clubs, parties, outings with friends, or just the general school run. These things can sometimes take a back seat when a couple separates; often, parents can be left simply trying to arrange to spend time with their children in between their busy schedules.
It is always preferable for the parents to be able to sit down and discuss practically what arrangements will be made.
Q. Does the children's mother automatically get custody of the children?
No, every case is different. If, for example, dad works full time and mum works part time, then it would seem practical for mum to be the main carer, but with dad able to spend good quality time with the children on weekends and during the week if possible. If the roles are reversed, with mum working long hours and dad more readily available to look after the children, then suitable arrangements should be made according to your individual circumstances. There is no automatic presumption that mum should be the main carer.
Q. What if our split was acrimonious, and we can’t agree the arrangements between us?
If the parents are unable to agree on arrangements together, the next thing to try is mediation. This is where a trained mediator will attempt to help you come to an agreed solution which is in your children's best interests.
If this is also unsuccessful, then the last resort is an application to court. Court proceedings are time consuming and costly, and can be very damaging to future relationships between children and parents, as well as between the parents themselves. For this reason, the courts would always prefer parents to make their own arrangements for children. However, if pressed, a court will decide what is in the children’s best interests and make a legally binding order in those terms.
It is important to remember that if the court imposes its own solution, this may not suit either parent, as this is the risk that you take in litigating over the children – it is always best to try and resolve matters between yourselves first.
Q. What if I have concerns over whether it is appropriate for my ex-partner to see the children?
If you have genuine concerns that your ex-partner having contact with their children is not in the children's best interests - common concerns include violence, substance abuse, interference from new partners, or an unsuitable environment for children - then it may be appropriate to restrict contact to a specific setting, possibly including supervision from a relative or professional observer. If your concerns are serious, it may even be necessary to apply to the court to stop contact altogether. However, this is a particularly drastic measure and a court will not order such a thing lightly.
If you have any questions about arrangements for children which aren't covered by this FAQ, or if you would like more information about any of the issues on this page, please give us a call on (029) 2034 2233, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or use the form below to request a call or e-mail from us. You will not be charged for this enquiry and there is no obligation to book an appointment.
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