The Easter holidays can be a flashpoint for disagreements. When couples separate, it can be very difficult to reach an agreement on how that time with the children is shared fairly. Lisa Pepper discusses what steps parents can take to reach agreement.
Unfortunately, one or other party can lose sight of the fact that they should be putting the children and their needs first, and many other factors can come into play: guilt, jealously, emotional hurt, to name but a few, can be the drivers. A good place to start if there are difficulties in agreeing contact, is the Resolution Parenting after Parting workshops which are being run in the London area in evenings on weekends. You can find further information by calling in to our reception to collect a Parenting after Parting leaflet or online atwww.resolution.org.uk/parentingafterparting.
Business like approach
Although your relationship may have ended, your role as a parent has not. In the early stages of separation, it can be helpful to behave with a businesslike attitude and try to separate your emotional feelings from discussions on matters concerning the children. Whatever your feelings are towards your ex-partner, you need to talk to them respectfully as the parent of your children. It is vitally important that the children do not witness conflict between their parents, and therefore any difficult discussions should not be held when they are in earshot, for example, at handover times or during telephone conversations.
Court or Collaborative
If you are unable to reach an agreement amicably with your ex-partner, then Court should not be your next step. The adversarial nature of the Court process is stressful, lengthy and has not been found to benefit the children (and in addition, the costs are prohibitively expensive). If you need assistance in reaching an agreement with your ex-partner, then you should consider mediationor collaborative law. Collaborative law is a form of mediation where the parties and their lawyers agree not to go to Court and instead have meetings together around a table.
Of course, with the best will in the world, for some couples, sadly, there is no other option but to issue an application to Court for a Contact or Residence Order. If this occurs, the first hearing is most often a form of mediation but this time with the assistance of the Judge and a CAFCASS Officer (Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service). More information about CAFCASS can be found at www.cafcass.gov.uk and leaflets about CAFCASS are available from Osbornes’ reception.
The instigation of Court proceedings in some cases is the only option, but it is important to note that once that process is commenced, other people are involved and some of the decision making and control is taken away from the parties due to the nature of the Court process. This article can only give a very brief overview of the options available to parents in resolving matters concerning contact. The family department at Osbornes are firmly committed to putting our client’s needs first, listening to them, and guiding them through their choices and, most importantly, encouraging parents to put their children first.
Lisa Pepper is a Partner at Osbornes, a qualified Collaborative Lawyer and a Resolution Accredited Specialist. She is also a Director of Resolution which is an organisation of over 6,000 lawyers and family justice professionals who believe in a constructive, non confrontational approach to family law matters.
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The family department at Osbornes is recommended and ranked by independent legal directories Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners. Our specialist family lawyers in London advise on all aspects of family lawincluding divorce law.