Agreeing arrangements for children amicably on divorce or separation

Whether you have just separated from your partner or are in the first throes of divorce proceedings, one of your initial concerns if you have children will be to make sure that you get to see them soon and as often as possible.  Initially you will be concerned with short-term arrangements, but as the dust begins to settle you will need to start to think about what should happen in the longer term. Specifically, you will need to think about:

  • where each child should live;
  • whether they can and should stay at the same school;
  • transport arrangements to and from school;
  • how you will cover the school holidays;
  • how your working patterns might affect your availability;
  • how much time the children should spend with each parent; and
  • whether you can each take the children on holiday.

The answers to these questions will vary depending on the circumstances and what you and your former partner agree.  From the father’s perspective, it will also depend on whether they have parental responsibility for the children entitling them to be involved in decisions affecting their everyday life.  The best outcomes for children are normally achieved where the arrangements have been agreed amicably between their parents rather than imposed on them by the court.  Ruth Jackson, family law Barrister at Forrester Sylvester Mackett Solicitors in Chippenham explains why and how mediation can help.  “With the wounds of your separation or divorce still raw, it can be difficult to think clearly and logically when it comes to something as important as your children; but keeping the lines of communication open between parents at this difficult time can have long-term benefits for everyone”, says Ruth Jackson.  With busy lives, work commitments, commuting and school holidays to juggle, it is important to be able to reach arrangements with a sufficient degree of flexibility to accommodate everybody’s needs.  Understanding that circumstances can change is crucial to ensuring arrangements can work, as is knowing that you and your partner can always rely on each other for back-up.   As your children grow older, being able to discuss and adapt your arrangements for childcare and spending quality time together will become even more important.  Arrangements agreed between parents can be tailored to recognise the challenges a growing and constantly evolving family can face in a way a court order may struggle to do.  Parents who work hard together from the start to try to put their differences aside to ensure their children’s needs are met are far more likely to achieve good results than those who remain firmly rooted in the past and struggle to move beyond old resentments.

Having a family law mediator available to help you see the bigger picture can really assist you in ensuring the best decisions for you and your family are made.  They will think about all the things a judge would think about if the matter was taken to court but without the need to actually go to court.  They will help you work out the details to make sure the arrangements decided on are both fair and practical.

At Forrester Sylvester Mackett Solicitors our family lawyers have extensive experience in helping families plan for children in an amicable rather than confrontational way.

For more information on planning for children or any other family law matter, please contact any one of our 5 offices or email

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

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