Rethinking child arrangements post-separation
By Jeremy Tier
Later this year there will be some further changes to the court application process in Children Act matters. There was a lot of tinkering a few years ago aimed at streamlining the procedure. As with the majority of the changes in family law in recent years, there was a lot more emphasis on the parties to the dispute settling the matter themselves through alternative means such as mediation, collaborative law or plain, old-fashioned talking to one another face to face.
Sadly, it’s the time of year (3 months post-Christmas) when divorce rates spike. At the centre of many divorces are young children who are often upset and bewildered at the prospect that one parent may not be around so often.
Most parents can agree upon a routine for contact with the parent who is no longer living at home although there is often a long period of disruption and readjustment for the children whilst the changes ‘bed in’.
This got me thinking (and researching) some more innovative ways of resolving these issues. In particular, one method has started gaining some ground in the UK following agreements in the US and Canada.
Normally, the children of a divorced/separated couple will go to the home of the non-resident parent on an agreed date. With bird nesting, it is the parents who do the moving in an effort to restrict the disruption to the children. The parent with whom the children normally lives would effectively move out for an agreed period of time, say a weekend or even longer enabling the other parent to move in to spend time with the children.
It can provide a cheaper alternative for parents struggling to maintain their lifestyle after a divorce. It also means that the children are less likely to get stressed as they are in their ‘home environment’ and not having the appropriate PE kit, school clothes, toys, breakfast cereal, etc become less of an issue.
Parents would need to agree a list of rules and guidelines that would inevitably supplement any financial agreement that they may have reached. They would also need to be respectful with one another’s privacy, especially if both parents have new partners.
I recognise that this is not the perfect solution to every contact dispute, however, it is an unusual and innovative solution. With some goodwill between the parents, careful planning, and correct legal advice, it is certainly an attractive option that puts the children first.
To discuss this and other alternatives regarding child arrangements post-separation, please contact either Jeremy Tier or Lucy Race.