Child Arrangements: Agreeing what happens to your children if you divorce
Divorce doesn’t just affect the two people whose marriage is at an end, and minimising the effect of the relationship breakdown on their children is often a couple’s first concern.
What you need to consider
When you divorce, you and your spouse need to come to an agreement about where your children will live and how much time they are going to spend with each parent.
You may have heard the term “child custody” mentioned in the media or in discussions regarding “access arrangements” relating to children after a divorce. The terms “custody” and “access” in family law have been replaced over the years with various other terms, and all are now encompassed in the term “child arrangements”.
Reaching an agreement about child arrangements
If you can reach an agreement, the arrangements can be detailed in a Parenting Plan for both parents to sign. A professional Family Mediator can also help parents agree the future arrangements for their children.
Going to court
Where parents cannot agree through other means, though, Court proceedings may be required. This sounds daunting, but many parents do manage to agree the arrangements for their children during the Court process, without the need for a Judge to impose any child arrangements on them.
However, if you can’t agree where your children will live and how often they will stay with each parent, you can apply to the Family Court for a decision.
The Family Court can then make “Child Arrangements Orders”. The terms of a Child Arrangements Order can be agreed during the Court process, or can be imposed on parents by a Judge if agreement cannot be reached during the Court process.
Wherever possible, parents should try and work together to agree future arrangements for their children, but this is often difficult after an acrimonious divorce or separation. We do understand that, but we always recommend parents keep in mind that it is far better for them to agree than rely on a Judge making the decisions for them.