Supporting children before, during and after separation and divorce

Scullion LAW recently hosted a webinar discussion between Judith Higson and experienced Divorce Coach Claire Black (September 2021). They both shared helpful legal and emotional guidance ‘to support children before, during and after separation and divorce’. This is part of our ongoing commitment to the community. We are aware of so many individuals and families that are struggling (during these uncertain times) and we want to reach out and help as many people as we possibly can.

If you missed the session and would like a recording of it please just let us know.

We would also like to gently remind you that all clients of Scullion LAW have access to a complimentary 20 minute call with any member of our support network. This includes access to a wide range of coaches, therapists and counsellors (via zoom) throughout the UK who will listen to you and guide you through the emotional rollercoaster, giving you hints and tips on how best to cope throughout each stages. The hope is that by working with both a lawyer and a coach, you will be able to think far clearer and calmly allowing you to make more informed decisions and absorb the practical legal advice on offer. For more information regarding our support network please click here email judith@scullionlaw.com or call 0141 374 2121.

So what should the arrangements look like for your family if you are separating?

Every case is different. There is no one size fits all solution.

We see all sorts of different problems cropping up when parents and other people with parental rights and responsibilities have problems sharing their Parental Rights and Responsibilities after a separation. Problems often come up when one parent tries to dictate and control what should happen so far as the children are concerned. Relationships are not always easy but the thing which creates the most problems for families is where parents cannot communicate with one another in a civil and respectful way.

No one parent or person with parental rights and responsibilities should make unilateral decisions for and on behalf of their child, and they must have regard to the views of any other person with parental rights and responsibilities. For parents who have the majority of the day to day care of their child they need to think carefully about when and how to involve the other parent in the decisions needed and they should seek out legal advice from an experienced family lawyer.

Where there is conflict between parents that can cause emotional damage to the children, it’s not separations that damage children, it’s conflict. Our family lawyers work to minimise the conflict and the emotional toll on the parents and the children.

In this country, there is no presumption that parents should share the care of their children if they separate, that’s unlike quite a lot of other countries in the world where that’s a starting point so, if parents can’t reach an agreement when they separate on how the children are going to be looked after, they can find themselves in Court in front of a Sheriff who then decides what’s in the best interests of that child or their children. There is no presumption that a mum is better than a dad to look after the children and there is no presumption that a dad is better to look after the children than a mum.  What matters is what’s in the best interests of the children at the time the decision is being made and for a Court, the child’s welfare is the most important consideration. The Court also has to consider a child’s own view and also take account of other factors like the need to protect the child from any abuse and the ability of the parents to co-operate with one another.

Child care arrangements

When we are instructed by a parent who is looking to resolve the child care arrangements we take a full history of what has been going on and discuss what the issues are and what that parent would like to achieve. Sometimes it is appropriate for there to be one parent who has primary care of the children with the other parent exercising contact time. Sometimes a shared care arrangement can be agreed. The research has tended to show that shared care arrangements work best for children over the age of 4 years whose parents live close by one another.

Every family is different and what might work for one family might not work for another.

Our advice on care arrangements for children is entirely bespoke to the individual family and our client but we offer various solutions to try to avoid the expense and uncertainty of Court proceedings. One option would be for us to propose that your ex-partner and his or her solicitor come to a joint meeting with you and I to discuss the issues between you to see whether we can resolve matters that way. This is called a “without prejudice” meeting and can often help to improve communication between you and ex-partner. Whatever is said within such a meeting cannot be relied upon in Court.

Mediation

An alternative option for resolving disputes related to children is Mediation.  This involves bringing the parents together to discuss the issues that they are facing in the presence of a trained Mediator.  The Mediator is entirely impartial, does not pick sides and does not offer legal advice.  He or she facilitates the discussion about the arrangements for the care and upbringing of the children.  The Mediator will tell the parties what the law can do rather than provide legal advice. This enables parents to remain at the forefront of the decision-making process unlike going to Court.  A parent cannot be forced to go to Mediation.  Both parties must attend voluntarily, and show that they are prepared to put aside any ill feeling that they have towards one another and focus on making decisions that best serve the children.  It is worth noting that any agreement reached in Mediation is not legally binding.  At least one of the parties will have to appoint a solicitor to draw up the Minute of Agreement in the setting out the terms of the mediated settlement.

Collaboration

Another option is collaboration. At the outset of the process the parties must sign an Agreement confirming that it is their intention to work collaboratively with one another.  The parties’ solicitors give their right to represent the parties in a Court action in respect of any of the matters in dispute and the parties agree not to use the threat of raising Court proceedings against each other. The couple and their solicitors participate in four-way meetings in search of a mutually acceptable solution. Like mediation, the parents remain at the fore front of the decision making for their family, but in a collaboration they will each receive legal advice from their own solicitors.

Minute of Agreement

Where an agreement is reached a Parenting Agreement or Minute of Agreement can be drawn up which sets out the terms of the agreed arrangements. These are not binding on any Court later considering matters. The Court will look at the best interests of the child at the time the decision is being made. However, having a Minute of Agreement setting out the agreed arrangements usually helps parents and of course the children by stating clearly how those arrangements will be managed.

At Scullion LAW we believe that going to Court is a last resort and to be avoided.

Separation Agreement prior to Divorce

If you have separated from your partner then we encourage you to seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity. You don’t need to wait any great length of time to get a Separation Agreement drawn up. There just has to be a level of cooperation between you and your ex.

Prices will vary depending on circumstances and complexity. Estimates start from £2,495 plus outlays of £20.83 for an ID check, £40 plus VAT for bank charges, £44 Registration Fee for two Extract Minutes of Agreement and £3.60 for each Title Search.

Finalising a Separation Agreement at the earliest opportunity means you can move forward knowing what will happen with finances and child care arrangements. The Divorce (12+ months down the line) is simply a paperwork exercise once you have a Separation Agreement and is very straightforward.

Depending on level of service costs for:

  • a Simplified Divorce where there are no kids under 16 years of age start from £650 plus outlays of £20.83 for an ID check, £40 plus VAT for bank charges, £128 for the Divorce Application lodging Fee, Sheriff Officer’s Fee of £13 and £15 for obtaining the Extract Marriage Certificate, if require
  • An undefended action of Divorce where there are kids under 16 years of age costs start from £2,995 plus outlays of £20.83 for an ID check, £40 plus VAT for bank charges, £159 for the Divorce Application lodging Fee, Fees of £70 for the lodging of Affidavits, estimated Sheriff Officer’s Fee of £250 which will be dependent on where service of the Divorce is required, 15 for obtaining the Extract Marriage Certificate, if required, £15 for obtaining each Extract Birth Certificate, if required.

If you have any Q please do not hesitate to contact Judith@scullionlaw.com on 0141 374 2121.

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Email: info@scullionlaw.com

130 Saltmarket
Glasgow
G1 5LB
0141 374 2121

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Hamilton
ML3 6HG
01698 283 265

730 Dumbarton Road
Glasgow
G11 6RD
0141 374 2121

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