Inspiring separating couples to make their own informed decisions

Posts tagged ‘Childrens’ arrangments’

The Children & Families Bill – What Separating Parents Need To Know

H.M. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in the...

There are a lot of Bills that do not become law but the Children & Families Bill is one that is very likely to be given Royal Assent soon, no doubt with a number of recommended amendments after it has been scrutinised by both the House of Commons and House of Lords. To have a better understanding of how Bills become law, please visit the Parliament Website.

The Bill sets out to make provision for vulnerable children and support for strong families. It will reform the current systems for Adoption, Family Justice, children with special educational needs (SEN) and looked after children.

Of particular importance to separating parents is the reforms proposed to the Family Justice System to help deliver better outcomes for families and children facing family break up or where children may have to be taken in to the care of the local authority.

The proposals are made as a direct result of the Family Justice Review to improve our Family Justice System. The key areas that will concern you if you are contemplating separation or you have already separated and you have dependant children are:

  1. The Bill proposes to replace the current ‘residence and contact orders’ with a new ‘child arrangements order’. This means that the Court will be asked to regulate arrangements for the child/ren and make decisions on whom the child should live, spend time or have other types of contact with if you cannot reach your own agreements either directly, via family mediation or other forms of dispute resolution. This should encourage both separating parents and the Court to focus on the content of any agreements/Orders, rather than the title/labels given to the arrangements.
  2. There will be a presumption of joint parental involvement (shared parenting) unless such involvement will put the child/ren at risk of suffering harm. It is hoped that this proposed amendment will reinforce the principle that both parents should play a key role in their child’s life/upbringing after separation subject to it being safe and consistent with the child’s welfare.
  3. Making it a mandatory requirement to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM) with a regulated family mediator to find out about family mediation and other out of Court options to resolve disagreements about the child/ren’s arrangements before going to Court. Research studies have shown that family disputes resolved via mediation are less acrimonious than those that are settled through the Court system. Also, decisions made by agreement are more likely to be kept as opposed to Court imposed Orders.
  4. Introduction of a 26 week limit for cases to be concluded when an application has been made by a local authority to take a child/ren into its care. This to avoid the current unacceptable delays in such cases.

Please read the fact sheet provided on the Department of Education website for more information on the proposed changes. It is intended that this Bill will become law by April 2014.

Government’s New Sorting Out Separation App

Having to go through separation/divorce can be classed as one of the most stressful experiences in your lifetime.

Some would say that it is far more difficult to cope with than the bereavement of a close family member or friend – it is a ‘living bereavement’.

Whilst there are grave concerns about the impact of the cuts to family legal aid that come into force in April 2013, thankfully there is help at hand for those of you who will not qualify for family legal aid as a result of the cutbacks and cannot afford the services of a solicitor.

The Government has launched an online application/website  for separating couples to give you much needed help, support and guidance. It covers the following topics with useful contact information, tools, videos and links to help you make informed decisions after a break-up:

  • Children &  Parenting
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Legal
  • Money & Finance
  • Relationships & Conflicts
  • Work & Benefits

By answering a series of questions, the web app will give you a personalised action plan. Click here to check out the new sorting out separation web app.

However, where  you are unsure about your respective rights and responsibilities or where there are complex issues arising out of your separation, a word of caution, it is always sensible to get specialist legal advice. Many solicitors offer an initial fixed fee service, which can prove to be invaluable.

To help you and your ex-partner have a dignified and amicable separation allowing for future co-operative parenting, family mediation, when suitable, can be a better way of reaching out of court agreements.

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Top Tips For A Hassle Free Divorce!

  1. Do as much of your own research on the law that affects your rights and responsibilities upon separation/divorce – with the World Wide Web at most people’s fingers tips – this should be relatively easy!
  2. Where access to the internet is limited or not available – you can get a lot free information from Law Centres, Citizens’ Advice Centres, or from other similar not for profit organisations in your locality, make sure you are clued up!!
  3. Typically, for married couples/civil partners, you will need to know  how to dissolve your marriage/civil partnership and the main factors that the Court will take into account when considering the terms of a financial settlement under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.
  4. For unmarried couples the law is more complex and will be governed by trust law principles and  the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustee Act.
  5. When looking at children’s arrangements you will need to be familiar with Children Act 1989  and the factors that the Court will take into account when considering what arrangements will be in the best interests of your child. You can find useful guides on the cafcass website here.
  6. Know that all solicitors/legal advisors work from the same hymn sheet and are governed by same law, and so in the usual run of cases where there are simply not enough capital and/or income resources to sustain the same level of living standards that you had when you were a couple, there will be little scope for creative legal arguments as ‘needs will trump all’  in every such case.
  7. Take stock of your personal circumstances – create your own schedule of assets/liabilities/incomes/budgets to compare your  financial positions and make sure this is undertaken on an open and transparent basis with both of you having had the benefit of either considering supporting documents so that there is no doubt about the information on the schedule or you may waive the right to exchange financial information if you both have had full first-hand knowledge/access to the information and there is no doubt or concern about the same.
  8. Make sure you look after your health and emotional /psychological well-being. Going through a separation/Divorce will probably be one of your most difficult life challenges. Some separating couples have described it as ‘a living bereavement’ and have stated that it was harder to cope with than an actual bereavement of a close family member/friend. Take all the help and support that you can. Not only from family members and friends but most importantly, from other professionals who are qualified and trained to help you at this time of emotional crisis. For example, your GP maybe able to prescribe short-term medication to help with any feelings of low-esteem and he/she may refer you to a specialist Counsellor/Therapist to give you more support. Visit Relate website for more information.

Visit the legal Information Hub on my website to get started and please give serious consideration to family mediation in the even that you cannot reach your own direct agreements. This will serve you, your ex-partner and most importantly, your children well. It is the least self-destructive way of resolving family disputes and reaching resolutions, allowing you the freedom to move on to a brighter, happier and stress free future.

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