Advice for bringing families together this International Families’ Day

Category: Children, Divorce, Family

To begin with, happy International Families’ Day! We wanted to use today to offer some advice for families. Particularly those who are separated, divorced or even considering divorce. We wanted to focus on some suggestions that may help you moving forwards.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the importance of family and spending time with them. Over the last 12 months, we have all been restricted to who we can see and when we can spend time with them. Undoubtedly, this has been really tough on all aspects of family life.

People often think that going to a family lawyer means that you will be ‘declaring war’. Or that you’re going to have to ‘battle’ over the children but in many circumstances, this just isn’t true. It’s always the most nasty divorces, and the most angry partners that tend to draw the media’s attention. In fact, you’re probably wondering why a Family Law Solicitors in Plymouth are talking about International Families’ Day! But family law has many positives, and the overall aim is to ensure the welfare of children is prioritised.

Agreements reached or Orders made within family proceedings often have a very positive impact on family life. As a result, they usually lead to arrangements that truly work best for everyone. As we mentioned, our priority is always the children, and ensuring that arrangements work best for them. Indeed, Family Law Orders often have the benefit of creating families, and bringing stability and opportunity to all.

In recognition of International Families’ Day and the new found reflection on the importance of keeping family ‘close’, we have set out below some advice for families and how it can be used to bring families closer.

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Shared care

The idea of having shared care for a child means many different things to many different people. We of course understand that no two families are the same. This also means that no two children are the same either. Each and every family’s arrangements will be different. Family Law Orders can adapt to best fit the needs of the individual child.

Shared care of children is an increasingly common and often practical way of raising a modern family.  In an age where most families have two parents going out to work, childcare arrangements often fall to both parents. This does not have to stop if a family separates.  Shared care can be arranged by agreement, which is encouraged by all, the courts and lawyers included. This doesn’t necessarily mean a 50/50 split.  In other words, shared care does not mean equal care, although in some cases, that can be an appropriate outcome.

There is no mathematical formula for calculating child arrangements. The Court will focus on what they consider to be in the individual child’s best interests. Strict divisions of time won’t really come into it.

‘Shared Care Orders’?

There is no such thing as a ‘Shared Care Order’ that can be applied for in its own right. However. it is becoming increasingly common to have Orders (known as Child Arrangements Orders), that operate in a ‘shared care’ manner. 

The aim of this is often to encourage effective coparenting. This will help to ensure that children have the opportunity to spend quality time with both parents. Furthermore, it means the parents split their responsibilities too. For example, it doesn’t mean that one parent gets the exciting and fun responsibilities while the other gets the more mundane. Imagine that – one parent gets all the fun days out together while the other is in charge of homework, enforcing bedtimes and doing the school run!

Shared care can allow the benefit of children feeling secure in two households. They would have a structured routine, and know that they’re still the absolute focus of both parents.

Step-Parent adoption

The word adoption can be a scary term. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Adoption means the creation of a new family member for many people. What could be more positive than that!

Adoption by a step parent grants the step parent Parental Responsibility for the child, alongside their spouse or partner.  A step parent adoption also has the effect of removing parental responsibility from the other birth parent.

Adoption of a child by a step parent is legally possible. However there is no getting away from the fact that the process can be lengthy and complex. This is due to the level of consideration required by the Court to ensure that these types of permanent orders are in the best interests of the child. Not just now, but for the rest of their lives.  This is where specialised lawyers can help. We’ll guide you through this process and help to create your new family unit.

Specific advice for step-parent adoption

If you’re in this situation, there are a few basics that you need to be aware of:

  • In order to apply for adoption of a child, you must be over the age of 21;
  • The child you wish to adopt must be under the age of 18;
  • And that child must have lived with you for at least six months prior to the application being made.

If your application for adoption of your stepchild is granted, this will mean that you legally become the parent of that child, alongside your spouse or partner. It also means you now have legal responsibilities for the child as if they were your own biological child.  The positive impact of this for both the parent and the child cannot be underestimated. Indeed, such orders aim to cement the relationship between the child and the stepparent for the rest of their lives.

At Nash & Co Solicitors, we’re always happy to speak to any potential stepparent about this process. We’ll support you in making this application should you wish, and throughout the whole process.

Parenting Plans

Another way of bringing families together, and encouraging separated parents to work together, is by way of a parenting plan.

A parenting plan or schedule of contact, is something agreed between both parents. And it focuses entirely on the needs of the children.  This plan can set out when children would spend time with either parent. It gives a level of certainty to the children. But it also gives clarity to you as parents in terms of what’s been agreed.

Parenting plans are incredibly flexible. They mean that it’s an opportunity for both parties to come together to really focus on the needs of the children and what works best for them.

Parenting plans can be put together by parents speaking directly, through lawyer correspondence or attendance at mediation. 

Parenting plans vs court orders

A parenting plan is different to a court order, offering you the flexibility of suggesting changes when necessary.  Without the rigid framework of a court order, parenting plans can be adjusted to meet the ever-changing needs of children.  Parenting plans do not act like court orders. They can’t be enforced by the court, but they do offer a sensible and workable alternative.

As lawyers, we understand that children’s needs change all the time. These can depend on their age and interests. So the creation of a plan can often offer peace of mind, certainty and reassurance to children and parents.

When things are recorded clearly, and by agreement, evidence suggests that both parties are more likely to stick to the agreement.  This of course, is the overall aim. If you’re finding arrangements difficult to pin down, a parenting plan may be the way forward.

Solution focused Lawyers

Positive outcomes depend on positive solution focused lawyers. Resolution is a national organisation that aims to keep families at the center of family law. This sounds pretty obvious, doesn’t it? However, there are unfortunately some lawyers who don’t work in a ‘Resolution’ focused way. The idea of ‘winning’ becomes more important than building family relationships. Frankly, that’s not good for anyone apart from the lawyers involved.

The Resolution Code of Practice, means that lawyers who sign up to the Code are trained to focus on finding solutions and putting the needs of the family at the center of the negotiations. The aim is to be ‘non-aggressive’ and ‘collobrative’, meaning that when matters are finalised, families can build on the positives.

At Nash & Co Solicitors, all of our lawyers are Resolution lawyers. As a team, we’ve signed up to the Resolution Code of Practice. Therefore, the letters we write to you and the other parties are written in a way to encourage everyone to work together. We want to bring the parties together rather then pushing them further apart. Because this approach will enable everyone to come up with a better and more workable plan moving forwards.

Prescribing to Resolution is something that’s at the heart of the Nash & Co Family law team. Indeed we stand by the importance of acting in this way. We’re well aware that your family will last way beyond the time in which your file remains open with us. So we want to help you create something workable, easy to follow and long lasting.

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What now?

As we mentioned, our Family team would love to help you. And please rest assured that we’ll do everything that we can. We’d suggest that you give us a call on 01752 827030 and we can have a brief chat. The most important thing for us is that we give the very best advice for families. You can also email us at [email protected] or request a call back by filling out our Contact Form.

We really look forward to hearing from you.

Finally, Happy International Families’ Day!