Whether you are recently separated or if you have been divorced for some time, if you have children with your ex-partner there is always a connection with them. It does not matter whether you are co-parenting or parallel parenting or your former partner only has overnight contact once a fortnight, a childcare agreement is still important as that way you, your ex-partner and, most importantly, your children, all know where you stand and what the parenting arrangements are.
In this article our children law solicitors answer:
- How do we agree a childcare agreement?
- What happens if parents can’t agree on childcare arrangements?
- How do you apply for a child arrangement order?
- Can childcare agreements be changed?
How do we agree a childcare agreement?
When you are feeling upset about a separation or angry because your ex-partner has not paid child support it can be really hard to put your feelings aside and think about the childcare arrangements that best meet your child’s needs. Many parents find it too difficult to reach a childcare agreement on their own. That can be for many reasons, including:
- You don’t know your legal rights or
- Your ex-partner won’t compromise – it is their way or no way.
- Your ex-partner was always very coercive and controlling and you are frightened of upsetting them because they will just make your life more difficult.
- Your ex-partner says that unless you do what they want they won’t pay child support or spousal maintenance or agree a financial settlement.
- Your ex-partner wants to move overseas with the children or to the other end of the country and you don’t know if you can say no.
- Your ex-partner says they have agreed things direct with the children so you don’t get a say.
- You are worried about child abduction and fear that your ex-partner could take the children abroad to live without your agreement.
If you don’t think that you can reach a childcare agreement direct with your former husband or wife then a children law solicitor or family mediator may be able to help you sort out an agreement or advise you on applying for a court order. With children law advice you can understand the type of childcare agreement you could reach and your options, such as:
- Co-parenting or parallel parenting where the children spend an equal amount of time with each parent.
- One home basis where the children live with one parent but the children have weekly or fortnightly overnight contact with the other parent.
- Relocation where one parent moves overseas or to another area of the country so contact is more limited to school holidays or long weekends.
Whatever type of childcare agreement you reach with your former partner it is best to record the agreement in a parenting plan. Your family solicitor can help you draw this up.
What happens if parents can’t agree on childcare arrangements?
If you can’t reach a childcare agreement with your former partner then either of you could ask a family judge to decide on the parenting arrangements. A family court can decide on whether your children should be co-parented with an equal parenting regime of shared care or if one of you should be the primary carer and the other should have contact. This type of order is called a child arrangement order.
You may be able to agree the day-to-day parenting of your children but not able to agree a specific issue, such as:
- Whether your children should be privately educated or
- If your ex-partner should be able to move overseas with the children or
- If your child should participate in religious observances or
- If your ex-partner should be prohibited from getting your children vaccinated.
These sorts of issues can be resolved by a court making orders such as:
- Specific issue orders.
- Prohibited steps orders.
- Child relocation orders.
- School fees orders.
How do you apply for a child arrangement order?
If you can’t reach a childcare agreement then you may need to consider applying for a child arrangement order or other type of children law order, for example, a specific issue order. It is best to get specialist children law legal advice before you start court proceedings as a solicitor can look at your prospects of getting the type of court order you want, and if that is not likely, whether a compromise can be reached to avoid children court proceedings.
In some situations, you may need to attend family mediation before you can apply for a child arrangement order. A children lawyer can tell you if you fall within the exemption to thus rule and, if not, advise you on how to get the best out of family mediation. They can make sure you know your legal rights and can provide mediation support. A children solicitor can also help you convert any agreement reached in family mediation into a child arrangement order.
If family mediation doesn’t work for you then to apply for a child arrangement order you will need to file a court application setting out what court order you want and briefly explain why. During the court proceedings the judge may order that detailed statements are filed at court. The judge can also order a CAFCASS report and expert reports. Depending on the complexity of the issues, the judge could order a finding of fact hearing before the court decides on what child arrangement order to make at a subsequent welfare hearing.
If you do decide to apply for a child arrangement order, Northwest children law solicitors say it is best to focus on why the order you are seeking is in your child’s best interests rather than looking at things from your point of view. Therefore, don’t say ‘it is my right to have contact’ but instead give examples of why your children benefit from contact with you.
Can childcare agreements be changed?
Childcare agreements can be changed either by parental agreement or court order. Whether you need a court order will depend on whether your former partner agrees to the change and if there is an existing child arrangement order, specific issue order or prohibited steps order. Ideally, any change in parenting arrangements should be agreed rather than you making an application to court. However, children law solicitors understand that some issues cannot be resolved by agreement where both parents are adamant that what they want is best for their child. For example, where one parent wants to move to Spain where the child’s extended family lives and where they will have a better lifestyle but the other parent objects as they won’t be able to enjoy as much contact time with their child.
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How can a children law solicitor at Evolve Family Law help?
If you need help to reach a childcare agreement after your separation or divorce or you need advice on applying for a child arrangement order or other children law order we can advise you.