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Divorce with Children: A Guide to Child Arrangements and Financial Support

A divorce is one of the most difficult experiences a person can endure, but when children are involved, there’s a greater sense of responsibility and the risk of long-lasting emotional trauma. Child arrangements is a crucial aspect of separation with children, and it’s vital to work closely with your family lawyer to achieve the best possible resolution.

Every separation is different. In some cases, both parents are able to agree and be civil for the sake of the children, but in others, the situation can get extremely hostile and more complicated. Either way, making child arrangements is an essential and necessary step to give them a sense of security and peace of mind during a period that can often be very chaotic.

Here, we’ll provide a comprehensive, yet easy-to-understand guide to the need-to-know aspects of child arrangements and child support.

a child support arrangement contract to be agreed when deciding child custody

Do I Need to Go to Court?

When divorce and children spring to mind, you tend to picture hostility and disputes in court. But the truth is that you and your partner can avoid a court hearing altogether if you can agree on specific terms regarding your child’s arrangements. Deciding where the child(ren) will live and when they’ll spend time with each parent are the key components of these terms.

While this may sound simple, we understand that these are big decisions to make and it’s not always easy to agree. A parenting plan is a written agreement that helps you to establish how your child will be cared for in the future. If you want a legally binding agreement, you can ask your family lawyer to draw up a ‘consent order.’ Another option is to seek the assistance of a mediator if you’re finding it difficult to agree.

If the Terms of Child Arrangements Can’t be Agreed

If you have attempted mediation but still aren’t able to agree on the arrangements for your children you’ll need to request a court order. Depending on the nature of your case, this may be a quick process or a lengthy, drawn-out affair. The advice and services of an experienced family lawyer will prove to be invaluable during any family law case, especially with the added complication of arrangements for children.

The type of court order you ask for will depend on the terms of your agreement that are being contested. The following are the types of court orders that relate to arrangements for children.

A child arrangement order

This stipulates where your child will live, when they see each parent and the arrangements for the time they spend with each parent. These three points need to be agreed upon to avoid a court hearing. Even if you handle the situation out of court, it’s still highly-recommended to hire a family lawyer to make sure everything is in order.

A specific issue order

This order settles specific aspects of your child’s upbringing, such as the school they attend or whether they will have a religious education.

A prohibited Steps order

This is an Order preventing a parent from taking certain steps such as unilaterally having a child see a therapist or child psychologist without the consent of the other parent.

Financial orders for the Benefit of the Child

These orders can include orders for the payment of school fees, provision of a property in which the child can live during the child’s minority, “top up” maintenance and other orders.

In cases where one parent is seeking time with the child or children, often each parent will be assessed thoroughly before the court makes a decision. This process will prove to be a lot longer, as it’s vital to ensure the arrangements ordered by the Court  will provide a suitable and safe environment for a child.

Arranging Child Support

Child support, or ‘child maintenance’, is money dedicated to paying for your child’s everyday living costs when their parent’s marriage comes to an end. If you and your partner are able to agree at this stage and sort things out between yourselves, then you’ll be able to keep things out of court. This is called a ‘family-based arrangement’ and, while no legal action needs to incur at this point, it’s still recommended to get the help and advice of a family lawyer.

With that said, it’s important to note that family-based arrangements aren’t legally binding. If you do decide that you want to make it legally binding, you can ask the court to formalise your agreement, generally as part of the overall financial settlement although this is only binding until either party applies in the child maintenance service for an assessment; which either parent can do after 12 months.  

If you disagree, as many parents do, you will have to contact child maintenance options before you can apply to the child maintenance service. They will be able to help you with many issues such as disagreements over terms or amounts, refusal to pay, reviewing agreed payments, and trying to track down parents who have moved away.

Are you a divorced parent attempting to sort out child arrangements or maintenance? KMJ Solicitors is a team of expert family lawyers who specialise in all areas of family law, such as divorce and child law. Get in touch today for your FREE no-obligation consultation to see how we can help you and your children.