When a relationship breaks down parents need to reach an agreement on contact arrangements for their children. If they cannot do so, a family court judge can make a child arrangements order settling with whom the child should live and the contact arrangements. Child law advice can help parents avoid child arrangements order court proceedings by helping them reach an agreement.

Agreeing contact

Most of us like to think that if we were to split up from our partner we would still be able to communicate over the kids and sit down and sort out contact. However many separated or divorced couples find it hard to reach agreement on contact. They often need child law advice to help them reach a resolution and avoid court proceedings.

Some parents worry about asking for children law advice, thinking that a solicitor will just recommend making an application to the family court for a child arrangements order to sort out residence and contact.

The reality is that not all children law solicitors are like that. Most good children law solicitors will help a parent look at the contact options by considering contact from your ex-partners or child’s perspective, looking at the practicalities of what you both want, and advising on the sort of child arrangements order that a court might make if either you or your ex-partner were to make a court application.

Shared care and equal parenting

You may think that there is only one contact arrangement that will work for you and your family. Perhaps you know other separated families and the children all live with one parent with the other parent has alternate weekend contact. If your ex-partner wants to share the care of the children, and you do not know any other separated families that do that, their proposals can seem unworkable. However, parents can agree to and courts can order shared parenting of children.

Shared care does not have to mean that children spend an equal amount of time with each parent. Shared care can involve overnight mid-week contact and the sharing of school holidays.

Often the question of whether shared care and specific proposed contact arrangements will work for a family will hinge on practical considerations. For example, the distance of the school commute from both parent’s homes and both parent’s ability to communicate over mundane items, such as whether the school homework has been done or the washing and the handover of the school PE kit.

A good children law solicitor can act as both a sounding board for shared care and contact proposals as well as advising on what a court is likely to order, after assessing your child’s needs and the family circumstances. Whilst parents always know their child’s needs best if it comes to court proceedings a judge will carry out their own assessment and make a child arrangements order. That is why good children law solicitors recommend trying to agree contact after a separation or divorce so parents remain in control, rather than the court.

Shared parenting – a campaign for law reform

Campaigners are asking the government to change child custody law so there is a legal presumption that in every case where a mother and father separate or divorce, the mother and father will share the parenting of their children.

Campaigners are calling for the start point when sorting out custody of children after a separation or divorce to be that children should spend roughly an equal amount of time with their mother and father. The campaign is supported by a recent YouGov survey in favour of shared parenting. Eight out of ten of the two thousand people who took part in the survey agreed that there should be a presumption of shared parenting after a separation or divorce unless the family situation meant there was a proven risk to the child of joint custody.

Legal advice for child custody

Manchester child custody solicitors say it is important that parents who want to agree contact after a separation or divorce take legal advice on child custody and contact. That is because communication between parents in the early days after a separation or divorce, can make a vast amount of difference to what contact arrangements can be agreed or the court is prepared to order.

Child custody solicitors know that when it comes to either agreeing contact or asking a family judge to make a child arrangements order the presentation and preparation of your proposals is the key to success. In the future, for those parents who want to share the care of children after a separation, making the case in court for shared parenting may become easier if the government makes changes to child custody law. In the meantime, parents need a child custody solicitor who will listen to what they want and advise on the best way of agreeing contact after separation or divorce.

For advice on agreeing contact or on any aspect of children law please call +44 (0) 1477 464020 or email Louise Halford at [email protected]