When making arrangements for childcare during a divorce there are two main questions to consider:
It must be decided who the children live with, whether it is the mother, the father or if they will live with both parents separately. If they live with both parents it must be decided how they divide their time between the two; how frequently they alternate and how much time they spend with each parent.
Parents must also decide how much time the children will spend with the parent that they are not currently living with. If one parent has primary care it needs to be decided how frequently and for how long the other parent can spend time with the children.
It is beneficial for parents to make arrangements outside of the courts. This will allow any arrangements made to be flexible, which means there may be no need to return to court every time there is an alteration to the arrangements.
If the parents cannot cooperate and agree on a fair arrangement then it may be necessary for one parent to apply for contact or residence orders from the courts. These will be legally binding contracts that will decide who the children live with and how they contact their other parent.
Parents will be required to attend a hearing where evidence will be presented to the judge, and the court will decide what orders, if any, should be issued. It is usually necessary to involve a solicitor to assist you through these stages.
Before issuing any orders the court may recommend that the parents make the decisions themselves, with the help of an independent mediator.
Once a court has heard the parents’ case they may recommend mediation. Alternatively, mediation is an option for parents before matters even reach the courts, and an agreement may be made without the involvement of a judge.
Mediation is the process of meeting multiple times with a trained mediator who can help guide you through constructive discussion about forming a childcare arrangement. A mediator may be able to help you reach a conclusion that both parents are happy with, and is often less draining and hostile than resolving the matter in a court room.
No party can be forced into this process, which is why the courts can only make a recommendation for mediation. Sometimes mediation becomes impossible when one parent is determined to settle the matter in court.
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