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Family Law

How Much Time Can My Former Partner Spend With Our Children?

Factors such as the children’s ages, school schedules, where the parents live, and when they work can be considered. Learn more here…

parent spending time with their child

Every Divorce Or Dissolution Is Unique

There is no fixed formula or set number of hours prescribed by law for child arrangements. Instead, the aim is to meet the best interests of the children.

Factors such as the children’s ages, their school schedules, the parents’ work commitments and the geographical distance between where the parents live are all taken into consideration.

It is important to consult a family law solicitor – especially if your former partner has already done so. Without the right legal advice, you risk seeing less of your children.

Get Expert Legal Advice On Children Arrangements. Book A Free Chat

Agreeing Children Arrangements

It is essential to approach children arrangements with flexibility and open communication, prioritising the well-being and happiness of your children above all else.

Coming to an amicable agreement – however difficult that might be – is always better for the children. It is also much quicker and cheaper than going to court, which should always be a last resort.

Children arrangements typically involve regular visits – such as overnight stays or weekend visits – along with additional time during school holidays and special occasions such as birthdays or Christmas. You can tailor the schedule to suit the unique needs and circumstances of your family.

If you and your partner are unable to agree suitable arrangements, the court may intervene and take decisions based on what it deems to be in the best interests of the children.

Courts generally encourage both parents to maintain a meaningful relationship with their children, including spending significant time with them.

But this doesn’t always translate into an exact 50/50 split of parenting time.

The court’s primary concern is to ensure that arrangements are tailored to meet each child’s needs and to promote their welfare, rather than strictly adhering to a 50/50 time split.

What Is A Child Arrangements Order?

A Child Arrangements Order is a legal document issued by family courts in England and Wales. It replaced Residence Orders and Contact Orders under the Children Act 1989.

A Child Arrangements Order can outline various aspects of the child’s day-to-day life, including:

  • Residence – who the child will live with.
  • Contact – who the child will spend time with. This could include the non-resident parent or other family members, such as grandparents.
  • Specific Issue Orders – these deal with key aspects of the child’s upbringing, such as education, medical treatment or religious upbringing.
  • Prohibited Steps Orders – these prevent certain actions being taken by either parent without the court’s permission, such as taking the child out of the country.

The court issues Child Arrangements Orders based on the best interests of the child, considering factors such as the:
  • child’s welfare, wishes and feelings (if they’re old enough to express them)
  • ability of each parent to meet the child’s emotional, physical and educational needs
  • risk of harm to the child, including domestic violence and substance abuse.

Any planned arrangements must be practical: they must fit in with the children’s school and extracurricular activities.

It’s important to note that a Child Arrangements Order can be flexible and can adapt to changing circumstances, such as the child’s age or parental availability.

If circumstances change significantly after the order is made, either parent can apply to the court to have the order varied or discharged.

What If My Former Partner Does Not Follow The Agreed Child Arrangements?

This can be frustrating and concerning. However, there are steps you can take to address the situation:
  • Communication – first try to address the issue directly with your former partner. Communicate your concerns calmly. Remind them of the agreed arrangements. Sometimes, a simple conversation can resolve any misunderstandings.
  • Seek Legal Advice – if informal methods are unsuccessful, you may need to contact a family law solicitor. They can explain your rights and offer options for enforcing the arrangements.
  • Mediation – consider involving a mediator. A trained mediator can help you and your former partner find a mutually acceptable solution. Mediation can be a less adversarial and more cost-effective way to resolve disputes compared with going to court.
  • Enforcement – if your ex-partner still disregards the agreed arrangements, you may need to apply to the court for enforcement. The court can issue a specific order directing your former partner to comply, impose financial penalties or consider changes to the existing arrangements.
  • Document the breaches – keep a record of instances when your former partner has failed to follow the agreed arrangements. Include dates, times and details of the breaches. This documentation can be valuable evidence if you need to pursue enforcement through the court.

Get Expert Legal Advice On Child Arrangements

For more information on child arrangements, contact Head of the Family Department, Richard Perrins (Partner).

Richard is an experienced family lawyer who qualified as a solicitor in 2009 and was made a Partner at Coles Miller in 2017. He has experience in handling County Court and High Court applications.

His areas of expertise include divorce, dissolution of civil partnerships, children arrangements, finances and property, separation, mediation and dispute resolution, surrogacy/fertility law, LGBT law, cohabitation agreements and pre-nuptial agreements.

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