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How to Divorce if you Have Children

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There was once a widely held belief that marriage was for life and that couples should stay together ‘for their children’. We have moved away from that view but when family lawyers first meet divorcing parents invariably the parent’s first worry is their children and the impact of a divorce on them. In this article our family law solicitors offer some information divorcing if you have children.

Online and London Family Law Solicitors

For specialist family law advice call the expert London family lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.

Divorcing with children

The first point that any family lawyer makes about divorcing with children is that you can separate when your child is only a baby, or just off to high school, a stroppy teenager, or a graduate who has returned home as they are unable to afford London house prices. Whilst the family court may not consider the needs of the older child in a divorce financial settlement, to a parent , a child remains a child whatever their age. Accordingly, separating and divorcing parents are anxious to protect their children, whether their child is 2, 22 or 42.

There is a lot of literature aimed at younger children and teenagers to help them work through their emotions and feeling and worries about how the divorce may impact on them. For example, with older children a frequent worry is whether they will have to change school. For younger children, a concern may be that the absent parent has left because they don’t love them anymore. In addition to books, leaflets and websites aimed at children, there is also counselling available. Sometimes schools or colleges provide counselling or a GP can make a referral. In some situations, it can be appropriate and helpful for an older child to be involved in any family counselling to help the whole family come to terms with the marriage breakdown and the impact on family dynamics.

The no-fault divorce and divorcing with children

No-fault divorce has been introduced with the intention of reducing animosity in divorce proceedings. In a no-fault divorce there is no need to blame the other parent or say why the marriage has broken down. Family law solicitors say the reality is that children are affected by a separation or divorce if the separation isn’t amicable, rather than due to the legal basis of the divorce proceedings.

The best advice is to try and keep things friendly for your children, despite your own hurt or anger. That may involve telling your child together about the planned separation, reinforcing that both parents will still be there for the child and continuing to support the other parent by parenting in a similar style, such as having consistent bedtime routines or rules on computer game usage.

Child custody and contact

Children can become weapons to be used against the other parent if a divorce becomes nasty. Sometimes parents say they want custody or contact when the reality is they want to use the children as a control mechanism post separation.

In an ideal world, parents agree on what parenting arrangements best suit the needs of their child. A children law solicitor can help you by discussing the range of parenting options, ranging from shared parenting, to relocation overseas orders, to alternate weekend contact. No two families are the same, so it is best to look at how the various suggestions would work for your family with your employment and social commitments.

If parents can't agree on what is best for their child the family court can be asked to make a range of orders, including:

  • A child arrangement order – to set out where the child will live and who the child will have contact with. This could be an equal shared parenting order or an order that the child live with one parent and have a midweek and a weekend contact visit with the other parent
  • A child relocation order – to enable one parent to take the child overseas to live
  • A holiday order – so a parent can take the child abroad on holiday overseas in circumstances where the other parent objects to the foreign trip
  • A prohibited steps order – to stop a parent doing something. For example, to stop a parent from taking a child overseas or to stop a change of the child’s name
  • A specific issue order – to decide on an issue parents can't agree on, such as whether their child should be vaccinated or should change school

Family lawyers and mediators will help you try and reach a resolution without having to make a court application for the judge to decide on the arrangements for your child.

Finances, divorce and children

When you are separating with children you are likely to be concerned about whether you will get or have to pay child support and what will happen with your assets, such as the family home, any savings, family business or pensions.

The Child Maintenance Service has the power to assess and collect child support and the family court has the power to make a financial court order, either by agreement or after a contested court hearing. One of the factors the court will carefully consider is the needs of dependant minor children but those needs have to be considered in the context of the family assets, the standard of living before the marriage breakdown and the needs of both the husband and wife (for example, both husband and wife will need somewhere to live rather than just the child and primary carer).

Family law solicitors will encourage you to reach a divorce financial settlement that you are comfortable with to ensure that you can reach an agreement as quickly as possible so you and your child can move on with your lives.

Online and London Family Law Solicitors

For specialist family law advice call the expert London family lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form .

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