Advice For Bringing Families Together

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Advice For Bringing Families Together

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Advice for bringing families together 

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 been 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.

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.

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Incredible
The Family team at Nash & Co handled my son's change of surname a few years ago. Very helpful, very reasonable cost and very efficient too.
LB
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