7 Aug 2019
In the first of an occasional series entitled A Day In The Life, we talk to Nina Rawlings, who tells us about her role as a paralegal.Read more
Every year, more than 200,000 children experience the separation of their parents, which means that before their 16th birthday, one in three children will see their parents part ways. What a sad reality.
This is a hugely emotional topic, and speaking as a parent myself I do understand the strength of feeling often expressed in the privacy of my office. We know that the breakdown of a relationship is a difficult and emotional time for adults, but sometimes those grown-ups are so caught up in dealing with that breakdown they forget the effect it has on the children. In fact, I’d suggest the impact is probably underestimated, and that there is a risk those children’s needs and emotional wellbeing are overlooked. It doesn’t take a child psychologist to recognise that children witnessing their parents getting on, rather than the opposite, will be all the better for it. And there is plenty of evidence to suggest the upset and mental health difficulties caused for children whose parents don’t behave well towards one another is significant.
It follows that the best arrangements are those that are agreed between parents and suits their family’s own unique circumstances. But there are those who can’t find a way to reach an agreement – what happens then? The parents need to apply to the Family Court for a Child Arrangement Order so that each adult can spend time with and/or live with the child or children.
"As a parent myself I do understand the strength of feeling often expressed."
Chris Fairhurst, partner
When all else fails, many go down this route. The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) continues to report increasing numbers of parents relying on the Family Court’s involvement with more than 40,000 applications being issued each year.
What is a Child Arrangements Programme?
If an application to court is made, cases are determined in accordance with the Child Arrangements Programme (CAP) which sets out the steps the court takes to deal with cases.
Particularly important and something considered from the outset is the obligation to consider whether domestic abuse is raised as an issue, either by the parties or CAFCASS, the latter being tasked with making enquiries of both parents, police and social services. This is so CAFCASS can prepare a safeguarding letter at the first hearing, further to which the Court will decide whether any hearing is necessary to determine disputed facts, relating to any allegations, before the case can progress.
The Children Act 1989 is the main source of law that governs relationships between children and their carers. Disputes following separations are often referred to as private law proceedings, because any dispute is between private individuals.
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