As a Trainee Solicitor within the Family Law department I regularly attend Court in respect of Children Act proceedings and am often struck by clients’ preconception that courts favour granting mothers primary residence of the children.
Children act legislation is inherently gender neutral and when determining the most suitable arrangements for children the law does not discriminate based on gender.
Furthermore, it appears to me that the preconception that one parent will be granted residence for the children and the other visiting contact is being undermined as the courts are more readily granting shared residence on an equal, or close to equal, basis.
When determining arrangements for children, family law is governed by the following key principles:
- The welfare of the child
- A presumption of involvement from both parents
The law states that it is in children’s interest, save for when there is a risk of harm, to spend time with each parent. This starting position does however fall short of equal shared care and residence.
- A presumption that courts should not intervene
The law promotes parents agreeing arrangements for the children themselves or instructing solicitors and/or meditators to facilitate agreements. However, if arrangements cannot be agreed court assistance may be required.
Within the court arena if either parent is seeking equal shared residence the court will consider matters holistically and if appropriate consider the practicalities of establishing a 50/50 arrangement. Such practicalities will include the location of each parent but moreover the ability of the parents to communicate effectively. In the circumstances, the court may grant a shared residence order recognising each parent’s equal role, whilst not necessarily granting a 50/50 division of time.
Whilst it is not possible to make sweeping generalisations about the outcome of children proceedings, as the interests of the individual children are determinative, there does seem to be movement towards the courts more willingly considering and granting equal shared residence. This movement challenges the narrative that one parent must take on a reduced caring role and perhaps encourages a more equal perception of mothers’ and fathers’ caring roles and responsibilities.
If you require assistance in respect of children arrangements or would like specific advice on the above, please contact a Solicitor within our family team for more details on 01227 367355.
All our family solicitors are members of Resolution, an organisation which commits to adopting a constructive and non-confrontational resolution of family disputes.
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