Imagine therefore, what those parents who are separating have to deal with in addition. They, of course, never imagined when they had children that a separation or divorce would be on the cards. The future looks bleak and most have no idea what to do or how they should deal with the situation. Whilst it may not seem like it at the time, there is hope.
The ideal scenario is that parents can sit down together and work out issues such as where the children are going to live, how much time they are going to spend with each parent and how they are going to parent the children going forward. Some are able to do this, but others can’t for one reason or another.
There are often complicating factors that the couple are unable to agree upon such as money, the introduction of a new partner to the children, the list may seem endless. Whilst any issues relating to the children should be kept separate, this is often not the case. Emotions run high and sadly children become casualties of arguments between their parents. When things are at their worst, the couple will feel as though there is little chance of them being able to reach an agreement about anything.
If the couple are unable to reach an agreement themselves it is always worth both of them seeking independent legal advice from an experienced family law solicitor. A good solicitor shouldn’t add fuel to the fire, they should listen carefully to what the issues are and try to find a solution. One option is for negotiations to take place by letters between solicitors. This will often resolve the majority of the issues between the parents. It can however be expensive and take time.
Another option is family mediation. This is a voluntary process where the parents meet with a family mediator who will try and help them reach an agreement without the need for court proceedings. The mediator will have a number of joint meetings with the couple to resolve issues such as finances and the arrangements for the children. The mediator will not make any judgements about the situation or make decisions for the couple, they are there to help the couple find a solution that is okay for both of them, and in particular their children. Mediation is often quicker and cheaper as more progress tends to be made during face to face meetings.
Alternatively, collaborative law is becoming an increasingly popular method of resolving family disputes. This is where the couple each instruct a collaboratively trained lawyer and agree to attend joint meetings with their collaborative lawyers in order to try and resolve any issues between them. Letters are kept to a minimum and any issues are discussed “around the table”. This is again often cheaper, quicker and there is a much better chance of the couple having a civil relationship afterwards if they are able to resolve any issues between them constructively. This is of course of particular importance when children are involved.
The last option is court proceedings. When tensions are running high, people are often keen to make an application to court. In some cases this is necessary but it should always be a last resort. Court proceedings are expensive, lengthy and stressful and there is always a risk that a decision will be made by the court that neither of the parents favour. They then have to live with that decision when, frankly, it should be them making decisions about their children together rather than the court doing so.
That said, when a relationship or marriage comes to an end, it is never easy to make decisions about the future, especially if there are children involved. Taking advice early is always preferable and it is important for couples, especially those who have children, to know that there are options available to them.
If you need advice about divorce, separation, the arrangements for children or any other family law matter please contact Shaun Hulme at our Head office on