In times of economic uncertainty there is usually an increase in private children proceedings. It is often the case that if there is animosity between separating parents and few financial assets, the parents are more likely to argue about arrangements for their children – who they will live with and when and how often they will spend time with the other parent.

The Children and Family court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), an independent body who represent children in family law cases, has recently confirmed that during May 2019 they received 3,950 new cases, the highest monthly total for May since 2013. The number of private law children cases has increased year on year.

This means that some children of separated or divorced parents find themselves caught in the middle of warring parents. Sadly, most family solicitors have been involved in cases where children are treated almost as another asset to be controlled by one parent against the other and where children are told information about the other parent, which is inappropriate for a child to hear. This toxic environment may mean that children feel they must support one parent against the other, agree not to spend time with the other parent against their true wishes, miss out on time with their extended family and may suffer emotionally or psychologically as a result.

If you have real concerns that a child is at risk of harm, the court must of course make full enquiries with the assistance of cafcass.

Following the breakdown of a relationship, there is often an associated breakdown of communication and trust between parents, which needs to be re-established. However, parents have a responsibility to act in the best interests of their children and to put their children’s needs first.

The court process provides that prior to issuing a court application to resolve arrangements for the children, parents must attend a preliminary mediation session (MIAM) to assess whether mediation may be an effective forum to resolve matters. However, if one party does not wish to consider mediation, that is sufficient to enable a court application to progress.

It is always recommended that parents see whether they are able to reach an agreement between themselves direct, via mediation or through solicitors outside the court arena. Court proceedings may polarise views further, make communication more difficult and be both costly and time-consuming.

If you are contemplating separation or have recently separated and have children, you are advised to seek legal advice at an early stage to consider whether you and your former partner or spouse are able to agree arrangements for your child or children in an amicable and positive way to co-parent for the future.

For more advice contact Susanne Leach on 01562 512428 or email at sleach@thursfields.co.uk

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