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When you are trying to make arrangements for your children it is important to be willing to negotiate and come to an agreement rather than argue at length. Glanvilles have experienced family lawyers who understand how important it is to achieving the right outcome for the parties, but also, for the children.
If both parties agree a proposal in respect of who the child lives with and when the child will see the other parent, it is more likely to work than if one party is not happy. Where the child lives (which is known as residence) and how regularly they see their other parent (which is known as contact) will need to be considered.
Coming to a mutual agreement means the Courts will not become involved and an informal agreement can work well for both you and the children. Your Family Solicitor can formalise this arrangement in writing, but the written agreement will not be legally binding
If you cannot reach an agreement between yourselves, the first step is to speak to your solicitor. At Glanvilles, we will suggest alternatives and may speak with your ex-partner's solicitor to come to some agreement without involving the Courts directly. You may want to consider using mediation or collaborative law to reach an agreement with your ex-partner without going to Court.
If an agreement cannot be reached through negotiations or mediation the Court can become involved. Either parent can make an application to the Court. The Court will then make a decision based on the evidence they receive. They will need details of your children such as their ages, their wishes and feelings, and the ability of both parents to meet their needs. They may ask for a Welfare Report, which is a detailed report looking at all of these aspects, which is drawn up by an expert i.e. a Cafcass Officer who deals with these cases on a day to day basis. This usually involves a visit to where the children are living and, if they are old enough, questions on how they feel. The report can sometimes take up to sixteen weeks to complete.
The Court can decide where your children live, and when and where the other parent can have contact with the children. Also, the Court will consider whether it is necessary to make any order in connection with the children or whether the 'no order' principle applies, meaning the Court does not need to become involved. The best interests of the children are of paramount consideration to the Court.