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Children and Divorce or Separation

Where do the children live?

You are the children's parents, and nobody is going interfere in your decision on this point if you are agreed, and the children are all right. If you cannot agree, there are people to help. We will try and reach an agreement with the other parent on your behalf.

If we can't, we can turn to the court for help. There, the District Judges will try and help you to reach an agreement about it, and they can call on the assistance of the Court Welfare Officer as well.

The whole system is there to help you find the best answer for the children.

Visiting Rights

When parents split up, the children are affected very seriously by the changes that are happening. It is very hard for a 'wronged' partner to see the matter through the eyes of the children themselves.

If your partner has found another partner, you are hurt and angry, and you want to have nothing more to do with them.

If you have suffered violence from your partner, you feel that you would be completely justified in refusing to allow any form of contact ever again. It will be distressing for you to find out that the children have a right of their very own to continue to have contact with this ex-partner that you might even hate.

How can you be expected, after all that has happened, to make practical arrangements week by week - month by month - year by year - for the children to continue in a good, caring, meaningful relationship with that other parent? This isn't easy and you may need help.

The Children's Input

It would be absolutely wrong to ask young children to choose between their parents. They want to love you both. A lot depends on the age of the children, and their level of understanding.

Older children may have a view, and the court will consider their view, through the Court Welfare Officer's assistance in finding out what the children feel about it all.

You should try very hard not to let the children 'catch' your own feelings about the other parent. You may feel very bad about him, or her, but try to understand that the children don't see it all through your eyes. If you have difficulty in settling where they should live, and how often they should see their other parent, seek help.

Don't put the responsibility on the children themselves.

If You are Unmarried

If a father is not married to a child's mother, it may only be the mother who has responsibility for the child in law. This is automatic, from the birth of the child. The father may not have parental responsibility automatically, and can only acquire it by the mother giving it to him, or by the court ordering it.

If the child was born after the 1st December 2003 and the father's name is on the birth certificate he will also have parental responsibility.

Parental Responsibility

The Children Act 1989 introduced this idea, to change the focus of legal rights within the family. Parents have very few rights, but a lot of responsibilities.

Parental responsibility gives you the right, or more correctly the authority, to deal with your children's school, for example, and to receive regular reports as to your child's progress. You should attend parents' evenings, and meet the teachers, and generally be involved in developing your child to his or her full potential.

Similarly, you would have to take the responsibility to give consent to medical treatment, when that becomes necessary. You have the right to be consulted by the parent the children live with, about where they live, how they are taught, their religious instruction, and whether they should travel abroad.

Children often find grandparents very supportive at this difficult time.

Please also see our other pages on aspects of divorce, divorce and privacy, divorce and separation costs, the effects of divorce on income and finances, will divorce affect my pension?, what happens to our home?, how long will it take to get divorced.

We are always willing to discuss each individual situation. Please phone Alistair Dobson in Market Harborough on 01858 445480, James Haworth in Leicester on 0116 212 000 or Sarah Townsend in Wigston on 0116 212 1080 to arrange a free initial appointment, or visit one of our free walk-in clinics.

Please note this will be kept in strictest confidence and is required solely to ensure we do not have a conflict of interest according to SRA regulations. The party WILL NOT be contacted by Lawson-West.