Divorce and Children: How the Courts Decide Child Disputes in Divorce Cases

children huggingDivorce is stressful and often emotional, but divorce and children together can create a particularly tricky set of issues. If you are divorcing and you and your partner cannot agree on arrangements for your children, such as which parent the child will live with, contact arrangements or issues of maintenance, the Courts will have to decide.

Ideally, you will do your utmost to avoid this scenario. At Cotswold Family Law, we will work with you, your partner and your partner's Solicitor trying to find a solution that is agreeable to all and best for your children.

If you have to go to Court, then its main concern will be the child’s welfare and 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.

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 done through the Court's welfare officers, who are called CAFCASS officers. CAFCASS is the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service and deals with divorce cases that involve children.

The CAFCASS officer will speak to both parents in their own home and also to the child, if the child is old enough. Often, a CAFCASS officer will arrange to see the child in an environment that he/she is familiar with, such as school. Once the CAFCASS officer has spoken to everyone, he/she 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.  It often takes 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.

To discuss your individual circumstances, please contact us to book an appointment.

Next: Divorce Settlements

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