It is always best if you can reach an agreement about the arrangements for your children between yourselves.
If this proves impossible, you can ask the court to make decisions for you. The court can decide, for instance, where your children should live (a residence order), or how much contact they should have with the person with whom they are not living (a contact order), or other specific issues, including in relation to other family members, such as their grandparents.
The children’s welfare is always the Court’s paramount consideration. Various factors will be considered:
- their wishes and feelings, taking into account their age and understanding
- their physical, emotional and educational needs
- the likely effect on them of any change in their circumstances
- their age, sex, and background, and anything else that the court considers relevant
- any harm that they have suffered or are at the risk of suffering
- how capable you or your partner (and any other person whom the court considers relevant) is of meeting their needs
The approach of the Court nowadays is to encourage parents to share equal responsibility for their children following separation. This does not mean dividing the time spent with each parent into exact equals, but it is about the children growing up with the sense that both their parents have an equally important role to play in their life even though they are no longer living together.
Sometimes a parent may have concerns about the other party’s ability to meet the children’s needs. The Court will want to investigate such concerns thoroughly and ensure that the children are safe.
However the Court will also encourage the parties to have trust in each other and to allow the children to have a close and loving relationship with each of their parents wherever that is possible.
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