How this will all be decided partly depends on who has ‘parental responsibility’.
What is parental responsibility?
This concept was introduced as part of the Children Act 1989, replacing outdated terms such as ‘child custody’. Instead of having rights over children, parents are now described to have ‘responsibility’ for them until they reach the age of 18.
Mothers automatically have parental responsibility in the eyes of the law. Fathers who are married to (or in a civil partnership with) the mother, or who are named on the child’s birth certificate, also usually have automatic parental responsibility.
If one parent does not have automatic parental responsibility, they can obtain it through a Parental Responsibility Order issued through the court. Parents can also enter into a Parental Responsibility Agreement together.
Divorce and parental responsibility
When it comes to divorce, the Children Act is very clear. It sets out these three main principles:
1. Children’s welfare should always be the paramount concern
2. Delays in making arrangements for children is likely to be damaging, so decisions should be made as soon as possible
3. It’s in the best interests of children to have both parents involved in their lives, unless there’s a good reason why not.
If you have parental responsibility for your children, it doesn’t mean that you have a legal right to spend time with them. However, it does mean that you must be included when making important decisions which affect their lives. Examples of this kind of decision include:
· Where the child will live
· Where the child goes to school and other decisions affecting their education
· Choosing or changing the child’s name
· Access to the child’s medical records
· Representation of the child in legal proceedings
· Taking the child abroad for holidays or longer-term stays
· The religion (if any) the child will be brought up in.
Making decisions about children during divorce
During divorce, one of the first things to do is establish who has parental responsibility. Once this has been sorted, you can start to make decisions together in the best interests of your children.
It can often be difficult to agree with your ex on all issues relating to your children. The art of compromise is almost certainly something you’ll need to learn.
But remember, you can use mediation to resolve thorny issues and sticking points. You can also rely on advice from your divorce solicitor to help you make these crucial decisions. You don’t have to go through this alone.
For advice you can trust on children’s arrangements during divorce, get in touch with Wirral family lawyer Tracey Miller. We’ll help you make the right decisions in the best interests of your whole family.