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When a relationship comes to an end and a couple separate, the overriding feelings are often hurt, anger and resentment. Following a breakup, it is likely that you want your ex-partner to disappear at least for a short amount of time to give you time and space to grieve for the end of your relationship and look to the future.
However, when you have children together, space and time apart without any communication is not practical. There has to be a level of communication to enable you to sort out what the arrangements are to be made for the children.
In my experience, if at all possible it is always better for parents to come to an agreement regarding the children. It is more likely that an arrangement will work in the long-term if it is reached by agreement between the parents. This of course is also better for children who avoid being caught in the middle of a conflict between arguing parents and provides children with routine, stability and consistency.
Often when I see a parent for the first time following a separation, the negativity towards their ex-partner often clouds the most important issue; ensuring that the children have an on-going positive relationship with both parents. When a parent seeks to obtain legal advice regarding arrangements for children, sadly it is because communication has either become impossible or discussions have reached a stale mate.
Since 22nd April 2014, except in exceptional cases, it is compulsory for a referral to be made for the parents to attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting before an application can be made to the Court. In my view, mediation is a crucial step in attempting to resolve issues with an attempt to avoid the need for a Court application.
Mediation is a process where an impartial third party assists parties to resolve their difficulties and reach an agreement. At Terry Jones Solicitors, in the event that we make a referral for you to attend mediation, we will ensure that we then assist and support you throughout the course of the mediation process.
As a last resort, parents can make an application to the Court for a Child Arrangements Order. This is an Order which specifically defines who the children live with and set out the arrangements for when the children will spend time with the parent who they are not living with. Court proceedings are costly, time consuming and stressful. In effect, if the parties cannot agree, you are asking the Court to decide what the best arrangements are for your children. In some circumstances, this can lead to the Court imposing an arrangement that is to neither of the parents liking and that neither parent considers is actually the best arrangements for the children.
I do not under estimate the “ex factor”. It is extremely difficult to discuss and agree arrangements with someone who you can no longer trust and who may have caused you hurt. However, with the support of appropriate professionals, this is something that if at all possible, you should attempt to achieve.
Sarah Reynolds is a Solicitor based at the Telford Office of Terry Jones Solicitors. Sarah is one of a handful of Solicitors in Shropshire who is accredited by the Law Society as a Children`s Representative. This means that she can represent both parents and children in Private and Public Law Proceedings. If you wish to contact Sarah Reynolds, her telephone number is 01952 297979.
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