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Advice – Children and splitting up


After 4 years in a civil partnership, my partner and I have decided to go our separate ways and have filed for a divorce. We are adamant that the lives of our adopted children should change as little as possible- is it possible to get shared custody from the courts?

A: When a relationship ends everyone’s primary concern is that the children are affected as little as possible by the changes in adult’s lives. It is vitally important that, if possible, all matters relating to children are resolved amicably.

Where a separated couple can agree the arrangements for the children, there is often no need for court intervention at all. When your dissolution petition was filed with the court, the person filing the petition will have filed a “Statement of Arrangements for children”. This sets out details of the children of the family for the judge, including where they presently go to school, where they live, and how often they see each parent. The respondent to the petition will receive this from the court, and will have the opportunity to comment on it.

If you are both keen for there to be a shared care arrangement, and you can agree the mechanics of such an arrangement between you, it is likely that the court will have no further involvement with the children after reviewing the Statement of Arrangements. Shared care usually refers to the number of nights the children spend with each parent, so a 50/50 shared care arrangement would mean that the children spent 7 nights with each parent per fortnight. There are however many variations which can work equally well.

If you both agree to a shared care arrangement, but cannot agree the mechanics, you could use the services of a mediator or solicitor to help you to negotiate an appropriate arrangement. Everyone’s family circumstances are different, and you need to find an arrangement that can work for the family as a whole.

It is a widely held view that where an arrangement can be put in place by agreement, rather than enforced by the court, it is much less likely to break down

If it is impossible to agree an arrangement for the care of the children, then it may be necessary to make an application to the Court for a (shared) residence order. The general principle of the Children Act is that the Court shouldn’t make any orders unless it is entirely necessary and that it is in the interests of a child for an order to be made

Even if it is necessary to issue an application parents should continue to try and agree matters at all stages.

Karen Witter is an associate at law firm Davis Blank Furniss.