You can’t always stay together for the sake of the children, but experienced divorce lawyers say you can minimise their pain and distress by putting them first when divorce or separation becomes inevitable.

The reality is that however angry or bitter you feel towards your ex, he or she will remain the parent of your children and will continue playing a major part in your children’s lives – so it’s going to be better for everyone if you can keep things as amicable as possible so you can work together for the benefit of your children going forward.

Amanda Adeola, one of the specialist family law solicitors at Macks in Darlington, says coming to an agreement without going to court is always the best solution for all involved.

“You’ve got to try to agree because you have a responsibility to the children to do so,” she says.

“Parents have to think about what’s going to happen in terms of arrangements at Christmas, Easter and during the long summer holiday and half-term breaks if the children are at school. “You can’t dismiss the other person’s role in the upbringing of the children. There will be occasions in the future where you’ll both want to be there – graduations and weddings, for example. Are you going to keep holding on to the things that separated you?

“If you can’t come to an agreement, then a judge who knows nothing about you, your children or your family will make those decisions for you and you’ll be stuck with it. So why not just do it yourself?”

Our experienced divorce lawyers appreciate that in many cases parents will not be able to agree absolutely everything themselves when their relationship breaks down and   some assistance may be needed. . There are many out of court options and our divorce lawyers will assist and advise on the best process for you and your family depending upon how much and what kind of assistance you require.

Under new rules introduced in 2014, parents must explore the possibility of mediation before applying to a court for a Child Arrangement Order, which stipulates who the children will live with and how much time they will spend with the other parent.

“It’s about coming together to reach an agreement,” says Amanda, one of three specialist family law lawyers at Macks.  “The outcome of the mediation isn’t legally binding so you may require some parallel legal advice as well  but if you are able to reach an agreement at mediation you  know you’ve come together to agree and reach a solution for your children.

“I like the new system and think it’s working well. Most people don’t like the whole idea of going to court .In addition to being stressful it can be expensive and unpredictable  . If you reach an agreement at mediation it is more likely to work because you have had direct input into it It  also saves money that could be  better spent on your children.”

On the occasions when it’s not possible to agree and there’s no alternative but to issue an application to court, Amanda leaves her clients in no doubt about what’s likely to happen.

“I’m a big believer in telling it how it is,” Amanda said. “I tell parents what outcome they can realistically expect if their case goes to court.

“If they don’t want the other person to have any relationship with the children, I’ll tell them from the start that this is a highly unlikely outcome. Each parent has a role to play in a child’s life and the court will firmly promote this because the welfare of the child is its paramount consideration.It is only in highly exceptional circumstances where a court considers a child is at risk of suffering significant harm that a judge will say it was not in a childs best interests to have a full relationship with both parents.”

Factfile: Explaining divorce to your children

*Always tell the truth – but that doesn’t mean you have to discuss everything related to the divorce.

*Do not wait for your children to ask questions.

*Try to be open, not blaming and be calm about it.

* Do not undermine the other parent or portray them negatively in the presence of the children.

*Tell your children what they can understand at their age/maturity level.

“You’ve got to focus on the children and explain that it’s not their fault their parents are separating,” Amanda says. “Let them know they will now have two homes where their parents will love them.”

For more information, pick up a free fact sheet from Macks or call 01325 389800.

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