When a couple with children decide to get a divorce, questions regarding who will look after the children and how much visiting time (contact) the non-resident parent should have are just two of the manifold issues which are likely to be at the forefront of the parents’ minds. The advice of an experienced divorce lawyer in London, Brighton or elsewhere in the UK will be valuable in helping a parent to decide how to proceed, especially if the decision making process cannot be agreed by the separating spouses.
The Children Act 1989 – a law for children
Before the Children Act came into effect every divorce involving children would be subject to the family law court making orders for ‘custody’, ‘care and control’ and ‘access’. This no longer happens and the court now expects that in most cases the parents of children will decide the arrangements for their care without its intervention. However, the children’s welfare will always be at the forefront of consideration for the presiding family law judge when considering the arrangements for children on divorce.
When a spouse with children files for divorce they will be expected to complete form D8A – A Statement of Arrangements for Children. Copies of this form must be sent with the divorce petition to the respondent and the court.
The petitioner must state on form D8A the following:
- Details of the children;
- Arrangements for the children of the family;
- Education and training details;
- Childcare details;
- Maintenance arrangements;
- Details for contact with the children;
- Details of health; and
- Details of Care and other court proceedings
The petitioner may, if they wish, ask the respondent to sign a copy of form D8A prior to sending the divorce petition to the court, if he or she agrees with the arrangements for the children. Alternatively, the court will send a copy of form D8A to the respondent with the divorce petition and the respondent, if he or she agrees with the arrangements, must sign the forms and return them to the court.
If the parents agree about where the children will live (‘residence’) and how the parent who does not live with them will see the children (‘contact’) then it is unlikely the court will be required to make any orders about these issues. If the respondent does not agree with the arrangements as stated on form D8A, he or she can either discuss the arrangements with their spouse or consult a family law solicitor for advice on how to proceed.
What is contact?
The term ‘contact’, as referred to in the Children Act, is used as a reference term for any times the non-resident parent speaks to or spends time with the children. Contact can also include the receiving of telephone calls and letters.
There is no recognised model for contact arrangements specified in law and each family is able to make their own schedule. As family life changes, these arrangements can be altered to suit the family and the court will not have to become involved unless there is a dispute.
If parents cannot agree on arrangements for children at the time of the divorce there are a number of steps which can be taken to avoid a full-blown dispute which could see the spouses having to appear in front of a family law judge. If an agreement is not reached by the parties before the judge considers the arrangements for children and one or other parties to the divorce has not applied for a section 8 order regarding residence or contact, then it is likely the judge may require an appointment to see the spouses.
By speaking to a divorce lawyer parents may be able to get the help and advice they need to reach agreement with their ex-partner before the need for a court appearance; this may include mediation sessions or ’round-table’ meetings with the spouse and their family law solicitors to discuss the terms for contact.
Healys’ divorce lawyers, London and Brighton, for child contact on divorce advice
The team of family law lawyers and legal professionals at Healys, in our London and Brighton offices, are proud of our sensitivity to the issues surrounding family breakdown and our commitment to listening to our clients’ issues regarding all aspects of divorce.
For more information on the service we provide, please contact Catherine Taylor on 01273 669 124 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for Brighton. For London please contact Jane Sanders on 020 7822 4107 or email email@example.com.