Family Courts – What they Expect from Parents
What Family Courts expect
Before thinking of applying for a court order it is worth remembering that judges will expect you to have made an effort to agree. You are seen as having joint responsibility for your children with a duty to talk to each other to work out the arrangements for them. This duty continues when you separate, or even if you have never lived together. If you can’t talk to each other you will be expected to ask for help from a mediator or a solicitor. See Mediation Information Assessment Meetings and Family Mediation for an explanation of what is involved.
The Court will expect each parent to put forward their case for what they want. It is the court’s duty to put the welfare of the child first. It can be hard for adults to accept that what they ask for may not be what is best for the child.
What Courts say is best for a child
- For parents to encourage the child to have a good relationship with the other parent.
- For parents to have a ‘good enough’ relationship with each other.
- For the child to spend time with both parents.
The law sees it as the child’s right to have regular, personal contact unless there is a very good reason not to. In the rare cases where contact is denied, the Court will have been satisfied that the child’s safety is at risk. Denial of contact is unusual and in most cases the contact ordered will be frequent and substantial, taking into account the child’s age and all the circumstances. In some cases, contact will be arranged on an interim basis which will be subject to review until the Court is satisfied that the amount and frequency of contact is right. Non payment of child support is not a reason the Court would consider denying contact.
If you want to change agreed arrangements the Court will expect you to make sure the other parent agrees first or have used the help of a mediator or solicitor to assist you before considering court. It is worth bearing in mind that experience shows that court imposed orders work less well than agreements made between parents.
Research has found that court proceedings are good for restoring contact when it has stopped and increasing it when contact is insufficient. Going to court does not however improve the parenting relationship which is so important to children’s well being. Whilst Family mediation offers parents a chance to improve their relationship and focus on the needs of the child, going to court tends to teach couples how to argue!
Having a court order
If there is a court order in place you must do what it says, even if you don’t agree with it. If you want to do something different, you must apply to the Court to have it varied or have it discharged.
Follow this link for more information on legal advice for separating parents