With the school summer holidays fast approaching you may be in discussions with your former spouse or partner about arrangements for your children. Although many of you may already have agreed on what is to happen this summer we hope the following will nevertheless be useful.
We always encourage our clients to reach an agreement about child arrangements taking fully into account both your and your former spouse or partner’s work or other commitments, as well as the children’s wishes, such as any camps or other activities they wish to be involved with agreeing matters puts you and your former spouse or partner in control of the arrangements rather than passing this decision making to a court or other third party.
Court proceedings can also be lengthy and create acrimony and bad feeling between two parents – which is the very last thing children want.
Although in certain situations it may be impossible to have direct communication, here are tips which we hope might be helpful:
- Always keep the children’s best interests at the forefront of your conversations. It may be challenging to engage in communication with your former spouse or partner but divorce or separation affects your children’s lives too and it is always better for them to have close, loving relationships with both parents and to see them regularly.
- Agree a date, time and place to discuss the arrangements. If communication is challenging you may find it helpful to meet in a neutral space such as a coffee shop or go for a walk – or if that isn’t possible use indirect communication, such as email, but keep your language neutral and open. Make suggestions, not demands. If you think the discussions might be difficult, consider suggesting that a mutual friend or someone who knows both of you and your children is also present – sometimes it can be helpful to have a neutral perspective on matters.
- Think carefully about the issues – these include the day-to-day arrangements, arrangements for handovers including timing and cost of travel, arrangements for telephone or video calls and plans for trips abroad (which is probably less of an issue this year). It may assist you to write down the points on a piece of paper so you do not go off-topic.
- Allow for some flexibility in arrangements, be realistic and work together for the benefit of your children. You may need to accommodate both of your work schedules, annual leave or that of any other relevant person – such as an au pair or nanny or a new partner. Being too prescriptive with arrangements is not always beneficial and there may need to be some give and take.
- Once you have agreed arrangements, think about creating a calendar or parenting plan to clearly set out the schedule – explain it to the children and ensure they know who they will be spending time with. Always keep communication with your children simple and age-appropriate but do listen to their views and allow them to express their feelings.
- At handovers consider inviting the other parent in for a tea or coffee. This shows your children that you can communicate and work together. Take an interest in the activities the children did with the other parent – be enthusiastic and positive – this puts the children first.
- If you need to change arrangements, let the other parent know with as much notice as possible. Unless there is an emergency or unforeseen circumstances, you should not change arrangements unilaterally as this will be annoying and can cause distrust. Last-minute changes are also likely to be confusing to children.
What happens if you cannot agree?
If you are struggling to agree arrangements with your former spouse or partner, contact us to explore your options which could include:
- Writing to the other parent
- Issuing an application to the court for a Child Arrangements Order