Family Law Misconceptions – Shared Care

Over the coming weeks, we will be focusing on a number of commonly held misconceptions in relation to family law… This week, we begin with shared care arrangements for children.

It is a widely held misconception  that shared care means a 50/50 spilt of time between the child’s mother and father when they separate,  however, this is not in fact the case. – Shared care actually means that the child will spend time with each parent, and the days or times  to be spent with each parent will be specified within an order made by the court, if the parents cannot agree.

The primary consideration when a court is setting out a shared care order is what is in the best interests of the child. Whilst many parents may wish to try and split the week, the main factors considered by the court relate to:

  • The age of the child / children
  • The child’s needs
  • The practicalities and logistics of daily life for the child
  • Where both parents reside in relation to each other
  • Work patterns of the parents
  • Any family support either parent has available to them

When considering arrangements for children, the courts will begin from the starting point that involvement from both parents is in a child’s best interests. However, they will then consider the day to day impact upon the child’s life of moving between parents on particular time scales to reach a practical solution that puts the child’s welfare at its centre. This consideration will take into account the child’s age, education setting, the relationship between the two parents and other influencing factors.

Again, there is a preconception with many parents that ‘the child can choose’. This is rarely the case. A court would not ask a child to choose one parent over the other. Obviously, when a child is say fourteen years old there may be practical considerations which lead one parents home to be more convenient than the other, taking into account the factors above, and in those circumstances a child’s wishes would be taken into consideration, but the notion that an eight year old will choose which parent he or she will live with is nonsense.

What is essential for any parent who is discussing child arrangements with a former partner in order to reach an agreement is to consider the proposed plans from the perspective of the child. It is vital that wherever possible, an amicable and communicative relationship is maintained with your former partner to assist with facilitating the day to day life of your child. Separated parents are all too frequently drawn into a competition to show ‘who is best’. – This is never the right approach. There will be times in the future when arrangements may need to be altered to accommodate friend’s birthday parties, sleepovers, school trips or even forgotten PE kits. A communicative relationship is so much more beneficial than a relationship where parents try to score points against each other. Think about it from your child’s point of view – do they want to see their parents talking on a friendly basis or arguing ?

It is extremely rare for a court to order an ‘alternating week’ basis for child arrangements, though two week cycles with slightly different arrangements on week 1 and week 2 are much more common.

If you would like to speak with a member of our Family Law team regarding child arrangements or you have an order in place which you would like to make changes to, please contact Nicholas Clough on 07538 385956 or Carole Nettleton on 07958 028069 or by email to family@psg-law.co.uk or via the livechat tab.