Children and Divorce - Oxfordshire, Warwickshire & Cotswolds

Divorce and what happens to the children

Most people who are involved in divorce proceedings do not go to court about the children.  At Cotswold Family Law we encourage every parent to look for child focused solutions when they are separating and to consider carefully how they will jointly care for their children.

childrens matters oxfordshire warwickshire cotswoldsWe aim for and recommend shared parenting.  This does not necessarily mean that children spend equal time with each parent, rather that both parents have an equal involvement in their child’s life.

We understand that it is sadly not always possible for parents to agree how their children should be looked after, or even how often the absent parent should see them, but we aim to find a positive solution for separating families wherever possible.

It is often the case that the child remains in the former family home with the parent who looks after them most of the time, but every situation is different and the situation can be further complicated by other issues, such as allegations of domestic violence.

Sometimes parents cannot agree which of them was the child’s main carer, or who should look after the child when the relationship is over.  In cases where parents can’t agree it may be possible to address the disagreements through mediation.

Not all cases are suitable for mediation, so when it is inappropriate, or even unsuccessful, then the issues may need to be decided by the court.  The court’s main concern will be the child’s welfare and what is in their best interest.  The court will consider a number of factors and we will discuss the way the court makes its decision with you in detail.

Court cases that involve disputes over where a child will live, or reside (contested Residence) can be lengthy,expensive and traumatic for everyone, including the children and although children should be shielded from adult disputes, parents do not always manage to achieve this.  If it is possible to come to an agreement without going to court, this is preferable.  However, we understand that this is not always achievable, especially when parents come to an agreement once court proceedings have already started.

Factors that the court will consider when deciding who should care for the child or children include the following:-

  • the child's age
  • background
  • whether the child is at risk of suffering harm

The Court may ask the child what their feelings are.  This is not done directly, but through the Court's welfare officers, who are called CAFCASS officers. The CAFCASS officer will speak to both parents outside of Court and also to the child, if the child is old enough.  The CAFCASS officer is also likely to arrange to see the child in the presence of both parents. Once the CAFCASS officer has spoken to everyone they will prepare a report, which will recommend what contact is suitable.

A major disadvantage of going to Court is that it can be a long process, often taking up to four months for CAFCASS alone to complete their investigations.  The Judge is very likely to follow the CAFCASS officer's recommendations and there is usually a short hearing following the CAFCASS report.  This is to see if it is now possible for the parents to agree.  If the parents can agree, this can remove the need for a full trial which can take an entire day, or longer, for the Judge to question both parents and look into the situation in detail, and can result in even more bad feelings between the parents.

The court can make a number of orders for residence and contact.   The child’s main carer is said to have residence (we do not use the term ‘custody’ any more).  The other parent has contact.

Please contact Cotswold Family Law to discuss all areas of family law.


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