My Ex Wants Custody of the Kids – What can I do?

When you’re going through divorce it is quite natural to be worried about how your relationship with your children might change and how much time you will be able to spend together in future. You might also be afraid of losing contact with your children altogether.

Shared parenting arrangements, where children live part-time with both parents, are becoming increasingly common and even where this isn’t practical, there is a strong emphasis in current family law on putting the interests of the child first. In most cases this means ensuring the child can maintain a strong and meaningful relationship with both parents.

This is one reason why the term “custody” is no longer used in family law. People still talk about custody and access, whereas the courts refer to decisions about where your children will live as “child arrangements”.  At Harrogate Family Law, we help parents sort out how to make choices that are in the best interests of the child. This can also include making sure your children continue to see members of the extended family, such as aunts and grandparents.

What does shared care mean?

Shared care does not have to mean strict 50/50 care.  The arrangements can be whatever works best for the children and around the parents’ employment commitments. We can help you negotiate an outcome that everyone is happy with and this will involve looking at things like school holiday plans as well as everyday arrangements. Practical considerations will have a bearing on the decision making. If one parent works longer hours or lives some distance away, for instance, it may be that they are only available to care for the children at weekends or outside term-time.

Even in the most amicable cases, co-parenting negotiations can be emotive. We have a huge amount of experience in helping parents agree child arrangements and if one party is being unreasonable about when and how much time they feel the children should or should not spend with the other, we can help you resolve these issues.

There is a danger that the children themselves can become embroiled in the debate and it is not uncommon for conflict to result in arrangements being made that are far from satisfactory for the family as a whole. It is always better to take advice from us sooner rather than later to avoid this kind of scenario and prevent relationships being significantly damaged.

Will we have to go to court?

At Harrogate Family Law we are highly skilled negotiators and as a result about 95% of our cases settle outside of court. We are accustomed to assisting in cases where a parent is being difficult and we work closely with families to help parents and grandparents agree the arrangements which work for them and the children.  We approach each case in a way which achieves the required outcome but prioritises and protects the welfare of the children.  We have access to a range of options for reaching workable arrangements and close relationships with family counsellors to ensure families get the right support where needed.

If the court becomes involved in child arrangements, family judges understand the emotions involved in these cases and will want to try to build a full picture before making a judgement that they believe is in the best interests of the child.   It is therefore important that the case is presented in the best way possible to achieve the desired outcome.

 

Andrew Meehan is individually recommended for family law by both Chambers 2018 (York, Hull and surrounds region) and the Legal 500 2017 (Leeds/West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire region). He is also the only Resolution accredited specialist solicitor in Harrogate for divorce cases involving complex financial and property matters.

This article has been prepared with the aim of providing general information only and does not constitute legal advice in relation to any particular situation. While we aim to ensure that the information is correct at the date on which it is added to the website, the legal position can change frequently, and content will not always be updated following any relevant changes. In addition, everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon. If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing enquiries@harrogatefamilylaw.co.uk. Harrogate Family Law accepts no liability whatsoever in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss or damage caused by or arising directly or indirectly in connection with any use or reliance on the contents of any part of our website, except to the extent that such liability cannot be excluded by law.

My ex is turning the kids against me

When parents separate it is important that the children continue to have a good relationship with both parents.

It’s a challenging time for everyone involved, particularly if a divorce has been acrimonious or if there are issues over the child arrangements.

Sometimes one parent tries to turn their children against the other intentionally and sometimes they are just so negative about the other parent it impacts on the child’s opinion of the other parent.

Known as parental alienation, there is growing awareness about the issue in the Family Courts and it’s estimated to occur in 11-15% of divorce cases. There are varying degrees but at the extreme end it involves trying to cut off contact with the other parent.

The emotional impact on children who find themselves in this position is extremely detrimental to their well-being.

So, what can you do if you think your ex is turning your child against you?

Possible signs of parental alienation

The whole issue is very complex because children experiencing a huge life change such as a divorce may well be feeling very angry and upset, and end up lashing out at you. It doesn’t necessarily mean your ex is trying to turn them against you.

Possible signs may include:

  • Your ex-partner reduces your parenting time without good reason
  • Your children make excuses about why they don’t want to visit
  • Only receiving limited information about your children
  • Your child may be reluctant to show you affection
  • Your child’s behaviour towards you is different when the other parent is present

It will be heart-breaking to feel that you are losing your children.

Supporting children through a divorce

When looking at this issue, it’s helpful to think about the ways you can best support your children through a divorce. It’s widely agreed that children are far better off maintaining a positive and healthy relationship with both parents.

It can be a confusing and unhappy time for everyone and children can even blame themselves for the break-up.

The NSPCC offers the following advice for helping children deal with divorce:

  • Remind them that they are loved by both parents.
  • Be honest when talking about it but keep in mind the child’s age and understanding.
  • Avoid blame – don’t share any negative feelings the adults have about each other.
  • Keep up routines such as going to school and specific meal times.
  • Let them know they can talk about their feelings with you – explain that it’s okay to be sad, confused or angry.
  • Listen more than you speak – answering questions will help them to open up.

Why legal help is needed quickly

  • The can children end up in the middle of conflict between their parents being used as weapons.
  • If one parent is prevented from seeing the children for a period of time this can become the new “normal” and it can become more difficult to reinstate contact arrangements the more time that passes
  • The parent being denied contact with their children will feel frustrated but if they tackle it on their own the other parent may well make allegations of harassment or abuse which they may use to help justify their decision to reduce or stop contact.

Cases of this kind can be extremely complex, and our solicitors at Harrogate Family Law are experienced in dealing with all the issues, resolving disputes and supporting parents. It is vitally important to take the right approach from the outset in issues over the care of your children.  We recommend you take advice as soon as possible to obtain guidance to avoid making the situation worse.

 

Andrew Meehan is individually recommended for family law by both Chambers 2018 (York, Hull and surrounds region) and the Legal 500 2017 (Leeds/West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire region).

He is also the only Resolution accredited specialist solicitor in Harrogate for divorce cases involving complex financial and property matters.

This article has been prepared with the aim of providing general information only and does not constitute legal advice in relation to any particular situation. While we aim to ensure that the information is correct at the date on which it is added to the website, the legal position can change frequently, and content will not always be updated following any relevant changes. In addition, everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon. If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing enquiries@harrogatefamilylaw.co.uk. Harrogate Family Law accepts no liability whatsoever in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss or damage caused by or arising directly or indirectly in connection with any use or reliance on the contents of any part of our website, except to the extent that such liability cannot be excluded by law.

Parental alienation: The dangers of influencing children’s feelings toward their other parent

In some cases, particularly after a particularly bitter or acrimonious divorce, a child’s feeling towards one parent can be psychologically manipulated by the other.

Known as parental alienation, it’s a situation that can be extremely damaging and harmful for those involved. In response, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) has begun rolling out a new scheme in a bid to tackle the problem.

CAFCASS represent children in family court cases making sure their voices are heard in family court settings and that decisions are made in their best interests.

What is parental alienation?

At the extreme end of the scale, parental alienation is when one parent deliberately tries to turn a child against their ex-partner with the aim of excluding that parent from the child’s life and cutting off contact.

It’s estimated to occur in 11-15% of divorces involving children and CAFCASS believes this number is rising.

There can be varying degrees of parental alienation from mild to severe. Examples from CAFCASS include: ‘a parent constantly badmouthing or belittling the other; limiting contact; forbidding discussion about them; and creating the impression that the other parent dislikes or does not love the child.’

Serious cases involve a parent trying to damage the child’s relationship with the other parent with the aim of putting an end to contact between them.

Tackling parental alienation

CAFCASS has confirmed that parental alienation occurs in a significant number of the 125,000 cases it deals with every year.

In Spring 2018, in response to the issue they introduced a new scheme called the ‘High Conflict Pathway’ for use in all cases of suspected parental alienation.

The framework will help professionals to assess cases when dealing with high levels of parental conflict and alienating behaviour.

It will also give parents the opportunity to change their behaviour with the help of an intensive 12-week ‘positive parenting programme.’

The scheme has been developed to provide a clear framework for the assessment of such behaviours on children and to help professionals see more closely what is happening on a case by case basis.

Any intervention offered will depend on each individual case and will include therapy to help parents address their behaviour and recognise the impact on the child.

In the most extreme cases, it’s been widely reported CAFCASS will recommend the child should be removed from the ‘alienating’ parent and they may be denied contact.

Parental alienation can be a very complex matter and the impact extremely to harmful to those involved. The new range of measures demonstrate a real commitment to tackle the problem and raise awareness of this issue.

Summary

It’s fair to say the family courts already have measures at their disposal to deal with severe cases of parental alienation, for example changing who the child should live with.

Nevertheless, the new framework demonstrates this issue is being taken extremely seriously, recognising there can be varying degrees of parental alienation which can have a negative emotional and psychological impact on a child.

Until now, parental alienation has been dealt with on a case by case basis. A more defined approach will help to reduce the detrimental effects on the numbers of children who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in this position.

Cases of this kind can be very difficult and our solicitors at Harrogate Family Law are experienced in dealing with all the complexities, resolving disputes and supporting parents. It is vitally important to take the right approach from the outset in issues over the care of your children.  This can avoid protracted disputes but, if it doesn’t, you will be in the best position to successfully resolve the issues through the court process. If you have concerns or questions about any of the issues raised in this article please get in touch.

 

Andrew Meehan is individually recommended for family law by both Chambers 2018 (York, Hull and surrounds region) and the Legal 500 2017 (Leeds/West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire region).

He is also the only Resolution accredited specialist solicitor in Harrogate for divorce cases involving complex financial and property matters.

This article has been prepared with the aim of providing general information only and does not constitute legal advice in relation to any particular situation. While we aim to ensure that the information is correct at the date on which it is added to the website, the legal position can change frequently, and content will not always be updated following any relevant changes. In addition, everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon. If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing enquiries@harrogatefamilylaw.co.uk. Harrogate Family Law accepts no liability whatsoever in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss or damage caused by or arising directly or indirectly in connection with any use or reliance on the contents of any part of our website, except to the extent that such liability cannot be excluded by law

Local Professional committee appointments for Harrogate Family Law Solicitor

Harrogate lawyer Emma Doughty has been appointed to the committee of Young Resolution (YRES) in West and North Yorkshire. YRES work alongside the regional committee to encourage professional best practice and promote supporting families to resolve difficulties constructively.

Emma is actively involved in organising a wide range of seminars, training and social events to provide members with opportunities to strengthen professional relationships and stay up to date with the latest developments in family law.

Emma said: “it is a huge honour to be a committee member of such a well-respected organisation with a mark for reassurance and quality. Not only does this platform give me the opportunity to contribute to positive change within the family justice system but it also greatly assists my on-going personal growth and ability to guide families towards the best solution for their individual circumstances.”

Emma of Harrogate Family Law, is also an active member of her local legal community having recently joined the committee of Harrogate District Law Society (HDLS). Emma is about to launch an all-inclusive Junior Professionals Networking Event in association with HDLS. The first social event will take place on 12 April 2018 and seeks to encourage Junior Professionals to be proactive at establishing a network of contacts they can trust to deliver an excellent service for their clients. If you or anyone you know are interested in attending future events, please contact Emma at: emma.doughty@harrogatefamilylaw.co.uk to be added to the mailing list.

Emma said: “There is such a high calibre of legal professionals within the Harrogate area and I am keen to be involved with raising the profile of Harrogate as a Centre of Legal Excellence.”

How to tell your children you are getting divorced

Research has shown that the memory of how a child first learns about their parents’ divorce tends to stick with them. This is why it’s worth spending a bit of time discussing how you’ll break the news. It will undoubtedly be one of the most difficult conversations you have as a family but, if dealt with carefully, it can smooth the way for greater understanding and easier co-parenting in the months and years that follow.

Finding the right moment

We work closely with Resolution, the national association of family law professionals, and through its work with counselling services and relationship experts the advice is that in most cases it is preferable for parents to sit down with their children together to talk to them about the separation. This ensures that they hear the same message from both parents which can help to avoid conflict in the future. Sometimes it isn’t possible for both parents to be present or it may not be in the children’s best interests.

The place you choose to break the news will depend on your family and circumstances but it can often be best to do it at home, where children feel safe and able to express their emotions naturally. The way your children react to the news is impossible to predict and you will both need to be prepared to reassure and comfort them.

What to say

There is no easy way to say it and whatever words you use, express them as calmly as possible and in a language that your children can understand easily. Tell them that it is a decision that you have reached together and reassure them that you will both continue to be their parents, even if you are not all living together. Encourage them to ask questions and not to be worried about letting you know if they’re finding things difficult to come to terms with. By encouraging openness and understanding, you are creating a positive family environment that will have the best possible chance of enduring after you have separated.

If it is not a mutual decision to separate one parent may feel anger towards the other but the children do not need to know who is to “blame” and it is not fair to your children to try to get them to “take sides”.

Remember to talk about the situation from their perspective. They will want to know how their lives might change and may ask if they will still be able to stay at the same school and keep the same friends. They might have questions about family holidays, how birthdays and Christmas will be affected and whether they will be able to remain in the family home. Whilst it’s important to be reassuring, you should also be honest and avoid making promises you might not be able to keep.

At Harrogate Family Law we understand that there will be difficult conversations like these during your divorce and we’re here to help. One of the ways we can do this is by making sure you are clear about the path ahead. That way, you will be able to talk about the practicalities with your family and make informed choices about the future.   You can also obtain more information about parenting after parting at www.resolution.org.uk.

 

Andrew Meehan is individually recommended for family law by both Chambers 2018 (York, Hull and surrounds region) and the Legal 500 2017 (Leeds/West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire region).

He is also the only Resolution accredited specialist solicitor in Harrogate for divorce cases involving complex financial and property matters.

 

This article has been prepared with the aim of providing general information only and does not constitute legal advice in relation to any particular situation. While we aim to ensure that the information is correct at the date on which it is added to the website, the legal position can change frequently, and content will not always be updated following any relevant changes. In addition, everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon. If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing enquiries@harrogatefamilylaw.co.uk. Harrogate Family Law accepts no liability whatsoever in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss or damage caused by or arising directly or indirectly in connection with any use or reliance on the contents of any part of our website, except to the extent that such liability cannot be excluded by law.

 

6 things people wish they’d known before divorce

Even the most amicable divorces throw up unexpected challenges for families going through the process. Being prepared for some of these obstacles can help enormously and we have put together some of those that our clients mention to us most frequently that they wish they’d known before divorce.

This will all come to an end

Divorce is a process and it will come to a conclusion. It might not seem like it when you’re going through it and that makes it hard to visualise your life beyond divorce, which is extremely important when you are negotiating a fair outcome. It can be tempting to settle for second best just to get things over quickly but remember, you will be divorced for a lot longer than you will be going through a divorce and your future is important.

 Friends may not stick around

Divorce does strange things to a couple’s friendships. If you have socialised with other couples before divorce, the relationships within the group will inevitably change following a break up and each of your social circles will naturally evolve. People tell us that some friends who rallied round in the early days drifted off as the divorce progressed. This can be really hard to deal with but knowing that it’s so common can help it feel less personal. There are also many different sources that can offer emotional support should you need it.

Your ex will act out of character

When you have been married to someone for years you might think that there’s very little you don’t know about them. You’d be wrong. Divorce alters the dynamics between people who have built a relationship on love and trust and the process of becoming two independent people instead of one unit generates survival instincts in both. As well as seeing another side of your spouse, you may notice another side to yourself too. If you expect your other half to be amenable to all your requests as you negotiate a settlement, you are probably not being realistic. Accept that both of you have your own agendas now and you will need to find some common ground to reach an agreement that is fair to both of you.

Your children may be upset 

As a parent your instinct is to protect your child from being hurt. This can mean that you and your spouse go to extreme lengths to make sure they are happy and worry about any signs they show of unhappiness. It is normal for children to feel upset when their parents split up. Acknowledging and understanding their emotions and giving them time to talk about how they feel is an important part of parenting through divorce. Don’t feel guilty about the fact they may feel unsettled and instead channel your energy into supporting them through it.

Know your limits

When you are feeling emotionally drained you will feel vulnerable too and prone to rash decision making. This is why we always advise people to think about their non-negotiables when they are in a calm state of mind before divorce when they are early in the process. These might be that you want a house within walking distance of your child’s school or that you want to take your children on holiday every summer. Whatever it is, take time to think about the areas that you simply won’t compromise on – and the sooner the better. When you have done that, make sure you tell your solicitor so that they can help you achieve the outcome you really want.

Divorce is a grieving process

Even if you are the person who initiated the divorce, you will need to give yourself time to adjust to a new way of life and the loss of your previous one. Nobody enters into marriage expecting it to end and the fact that it has ended can bring with it feelings of failure, regret, guilt and loneliness. It can also be scary at times as you look ahead at an uncertain future. This is where it can help to take time to think about what your future might look like and where you would like to be in five years’ time. By looking beyond your current situation to a time when it is all behind you can help to give some perspective that enables you to make strategic decisions.

Our solicitors at Harrogate Family Law are experienced in supporting people through the divorce process and will help you look beyond the present and plan for the future. Call us on 01423 594 680 to arrange an initial chat.

How to obtain a clean break on divorce

Divorcing couples are becoming increasingly aware that it is in their best interests to obtain a clean break when they split up. This is to prevent any future claims on either party’s wealth or earnings and can be agreed at the time of divorce.

What is a clean break and how do I get one?

A clean break effectively draws a line under the division of assets when a couple divorces, preventing the parties from making any future claims on each other’s property, income or pensions at a later date.

A “consent order” is made by a judge in divorce proceedings, where both parties have agreed their financial settlement and consent to an order being made. This can be done  without the need for a court hearing.

The parties file a draft of the consent order containing the terms of their financial settlement, together with a brief financial statement that sets out their current financial position.

The papers then go before a judge who will look at the order to see if it acceptable legally. If the judge accepts the order, it is then approved and sent to the parties to implement.

The order becomes legally binding when the Decree Absolute has been granted in the divorce proceedings.

Why should I secure a consent order?

When a couple marries, this automatically gives them a right to claim financial provision from the other in the event that their marriage breaks down. Even if you don’t have many assets at the time of your divorce, it is still important to get a clean break because your spouse’s ability to claim for financial provision from you can continue to exist even after you have divorce.

One recent high profile case (Wyatt v Vince) involved a woman who made a financial claim against her ex-husband who had been penniless when they were together but had made a multi-million pound fortune after their divorce.

They divorced in 1992 and the case was heard by the Supreme Court more than two decades later.

A clean break order prevents the possibility of such future financial claims.

When a clean break may not be suitable

There are situations where one spouse has given up a career to bring up the couple’s children and may still have childcare responsibilities that prevent them returning to work.

A clean break is still possible in such cases but may be deferred, for example until the children reach a certain age.

In some situations a wife who has spent many years looking after home and family may never be able to achieve the income levels required to maintain her current standard of living.

In these cases it may not be in the best interests of her to have a complete clean break but it is still important to get a financial settlement ratified by the court so that it is binding on the parties.

Making sure of a clean break

If a clean break is appropriate for your circumstances then the only way to guarantee that there are no future claims made against you by your former spouse or civil partner is to get a court order. Without this, there is always a possibility that you could be faced with a claim for financial provision such as maintenance or lump sum orders. Only an order submitted to court and approved by a judge can protect you against this situation. It is usually straightforward to put in place and could save considerable uncertainty and legal expense in future.

How to get a consent order

A consent order is a legal document that should be drafted by an experienced legal professional to ensure it is legally binding.

There are specific rules as to how an order should be drafted and what can and cannot be included in one.

The consent order can be applied for once the Decree Nisi has been granted in the divorce proceedings and not before.

How we can help

A consent order is binding and if one party is suggesting it, the other should seek proper legal advice from an experienced family solicitor in case there is anything pending that could affect the value of the couple’s assets.

If the order is made without securing accurate valuations of property, pensions and business interests, one spouse could miss out on a fair settlement and will not have the option to renegotiate at a later date.

Here at Harrogate Family Law we can assist you in compiling all relevant financial details and records prior to presenting a consent order for ratification by the courts.

We believe in bringing a positive and cost-effective contribution to your divorce settlement by offering outstanding advice on separation and divorce law.

 

Andrew Meehan is individually recommended for family law by both Chambers UK and the Legal 500. He is also a Resolution accredited specialist solicitor for divorce cases involving complex financial and property matters.

This article has been prepared with the aim of providing general information only and does not constitute legal advice in relation to any particular situation. While we aim to ensure that the information is correct at the date on which it is added to the website, the legal position can change frequently, and content will not always be updated following any relevant changes. In addition, everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon. If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing enquiries@harrogatefamilylaw.co.uk. Harrogate Family Law accepts no liability whatsoever in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss or damage caused by or arising directly or indirectly in connection with any use or reliance on the contents of any part of our website, except to the extent that such liability cannot be excluded by law.

Can My Ex Move Away With the Children?

What happens when your ex wants to move away with the children – perhaps also with a new partner – and you object?

We’ve supported a number of clients – mothers and fathers – through this kind of situation, both when they have been concerned about a partner moving away with the kids or when they are the one wanting to move away with their family. Having advised them through their divorce, we are their first port of call when they want to embark on a new beginning in a different area, which may be several years later. Thankfully, most of our past clients understand the importance of seeking professional advice early and they usually approach us for an initial chat before broaching the subject with the other parent.

What are my rights?

If your children live with your partner and he or she wants to move to another part of England and Wales, we would advise them to seek your agreement to the move and not to simply announce that they’re leaving. If you do not agree with the proposed move, your ex may ask the court to make the decision about whether or not they should be allowed to move.

One parent does have the right to try and stop the other from moving and may seek a court order from the court to prevent it from happening. Such an order would prevent the child from moving with until the court has considered the case.

It is far better to talk to your ex first and see if you can reach an agreement by working out how your children will be able to continue to have time with both parents after the move.

What if I’m the one moving? How can I persuade the courts to let me move away with the children?

If you and your ex can’t reach an agreement amicably, you will need to demonstrate to the court that the relocation is in the best interests of the children. You might be moving for a better job or for a more financially secure future with another partner. It may be a better area that offers your children more opportunities for recreation and schooling. You could be moving to be closer to relatives, in which case the children will benefit from a wider family unit. All of these can be valid reasons and may persuade the court to find in your favour.

The court will want to make sure the children’s relationship with the other parent doesn’t suffer. That doesn’t mean it needs to stay exactly the same. It’s impractical to maintain visits every weekend when there might be a distance of several hundred miles to consider. The children will also want to build their own social life locally at the weekends and this could be hampered if they are required to travel to stay with their other parent too frequently. A good compromise can be to arrange longer stays during the school holidays so that regular, quality contact can be maintained with both parents without interfering with the children’s everyday lives.

We won’t have covered every question about the issue of relocation in this article and if you would like to talk about your own situation please pick up the phone and give us a call. Our lawyers have a great deal of expertise in this area and we can help you even if we weren’t your solicitor during your divorce. Call us on 01423 594680.

 

Andrew Meehan is individually recommended for family law by both Chambers UK and the Legal 500. He is also a Resolution accredited specialist solicitor for divorce cases involving complex financial and property matters.

This article has been prepared with the aim of providing general information only and does not constitute legal advice in relation to any particular situation. While we aim to ensure that the information is correct at the date on which it is added to the website, the legal position can change frequently, and content will not always be updated following any relevant changes. In addition, everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon. If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing enquiries@harrogatefamilylaw.co.uk. Harrogate Family Law accepts no liability whatsoever in contract, tort or otherwise for any loss or damage caused by or arising directly or indirectly in connection with any use or reliance on the contents of any part of our website, except to the extent that such liability cannot be excluded by law.

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