Great Expectations? (What the Family Court Expects from Parents

Great Expectations? (What the Family Court Expects from Parents)

Glasgow Sheriff Court previously issued guidelines for parents who are involved in Court proceedings in relation to their child or children.  The guidelines apply to all the children and all parents and carers, without exception.  We discuss the content of the guidelines with clients and we forward this information to parents and carers whose children are the subject of Court proceedings. The guidelines serve as a useful reminder to clients to try and encourage resolution of child related matters with the other parent, rather than asking the Court to regulate things.  Obviously, this is not possible in all cases but these guidelines are a reminder of how, where possible, parents should co-operate in relation to arrangements for their children. Please feel free to print and share.

These guidelines apply to all children and all parents & carers. Please do not think that your case is an exception

.

The Court wants you to think about these things:

● As parents, you share responsibility for your child.  You have a duty to talk to each other and make very effort to agree about how you will bring your child up.

● Even when you separate, this duty continues.

● Try to agree the arrangements for your child.  If talking to each other is difficult, ask for help. Trained mediators can help you to talk to each other and find solutions even when things are hard. Local services include: Relationship Scotland – Family Mediation West (

www.fmwest.org.uk) and CALM Scotland (www.calmscotland.co.uk)  (You can also get assistance from The Spark (http://www.thespark.org.uk)

  • If you cannot agree, you can ask the Court to decide for you. The law says that the Court must always put the welfare of the child first. What you want may not be the best thing for the child. The Court has to put the child first however hard this is for the adults.

 

● Experience suggests that agreements between you as parents work better than Court imposed orders.

The Court therefore expects you to do what is best for your child:

● Encourage your child to have a good relationship with both of you.

● Try to have a good enough relationship with each other as parents even though you are no longer together as a couple.

● Arrange for your child to spend time with each of you.

Remember that the Court expects you to do what is best for your child even when you find that difficult:

● It is the law that a child has a right to regular personal contact with parents unless there is a very good reason to the contrary. Denial of contact is very unusual and in most cases contact will be frequent and substantial.

  • A Court may deny contact if it is satisfied that your or your child’s safety is at risk.

 

  • Sometimes a parent stops contact because he or she feels that he or she is not getting enough money from the other parent to look after the child.  This is not a reason to stop contact.

 

Your Child needs to:

  • Understand what is happening to their family. It is your job to explain.

 

  • Have a loving open relationship with both parents. It is your job to encourage this. You may be separated from each other but your child needs to know that he or she is not being separated from either of you.

 

  • Show love, affection and respect for both parents.

 

Your child should not be made to:

● Blame himself or herself for the breakup.

● Hear you criticize the other parent or anyone else involved.

● Turn against the other parent because they think that is what you want.

You can help your child:

● Think about how he or she feels about the breakup.

● Listen to what your child has to say about how he or she is feeling, and about what he or she thinks of any arrangements that have to be made.

● Try to agree arrangements for your child with other people.

● Talk to the other parent openly, honestly and respectfully

  • Explain your point of view to the other parent so that you do not misunderstand one another.

 

● Draw up a plan as to how you will share responsibility for your child.

● When you have different ideas from other parent, do not talk about it when your child is with you. Do not publicise your disagreement or make derogatory comments on any social media sites where the child might access them or hear about them from others

If you want to change agreed arrangements such as where the child lives or goes to school:

● Make sure the other parent agrees. If you cannot agree, go to mediation; if you still cannot agree, apply to the Court

If  there is a Court Order in place, you must do what the Court Order says even if you

don’t agree with that. If you want to do something different, you have to apply to the

Court to have the Court Order varied.

So, some helpful home truths from Glasgow Sheriff Court. If you need any help or guidance, or further explanation as to the effect these guidelines may have on you then please do not hesitate to contact Caroline Henderson on 0141 611 7535 or visit us at www.mtmfamilylaw.co.uk.  Please feel free to share this information.

A Guide for Separated Parents at Christmas

With 10 sleeps until Santa comes (as I was so excitedly told by my boss when I arrived in the office this morning!) our thoughts turn to friends, family, fizz, gifts, fizz, selection boxes, presents and of course, fizz! Christmas is usually a time for family, especially children. But, for separated families, it can be a time of increased pressure and unhappiness. You may find it incredibly hard to be away from your children for even a few hours on Christmas day but here are some helpful hints and pointers (from the centre for separated families) which may help make the day, and the rest of the holidays, a little easier for everyone. Maybe not for all, but fingers crossed.

If your children will spend time with both of you
Try to agree, as early as possible, how your children will spend time with each of you. It isn’t important that they spend exactly the same amount of time with you both. What’s important is that the time is as relaxed and enjoyable as possible. Think about how it may be possible for your children to spend some quality time with both of you that allows everyone to get something of what they would like.

Make any hand-over as easy as possible
If your children will be spending time in two places, make sure that the transition is as simple as possible. The last thing your children want is to see their mum and dad arguing. Agree when, where and how your children will move between you. Stick to your agreement and contact each other if there needs to be any changes. If seeing each other is too difficult, think about people who may be able to help at hand-over such as grandparents or friends.

When time with both of you isn’t possible
If it is not possible for your children to spend time with both of you on the day, try to think about ways that you can share the celebration with your children at another time and make that as special as possible. A phone call on, or a special letter for the day can help children feel connected and reduce any anxiety. If your children’s other parent doesn’t seem interested, might it be possible to encourage them just to send a card?

Don’t compete over presents
Some separated parents find it possible to share present buying and giving. However, for many, this isn’t realistic. If you are buying presents separately, try to agree who will buy what. It can be very difficult if one parent has more money than the other. So try not to compete over who will buy the biggest or the best present – it just isn’t in your children’s best interests.

Think about extended family
Try to make time for grandparents, aunts and uncles if your children are used to seeing them at Christmas. If it is too difficult to spend time with them, then a phone call will help everyone stay in touch.

Think about new partners and other children
If there is a new partner in your life, think about how that will affect your arrangements. How will your children feel about that? How will your new partner feel about it? How will you children’s other parent feel about it? What about step-siblings and half-siblings? Try to find a way forward that means that as little friction as possible. But be honest about what you want, too.

Don’t require your children to make the decisions
It is important that children, especially younger ones, are not required to make decisions on your behalf. Talk to all the adults involved, talk to your children if they are old enough, decide what is best and then tell your children what has been decided.

When you are unable to see or contact your children
Being prevented from seeing or contacting your children, for whatever reason, is usually a very painful experience. Times of celebration can be especially difficult. Many parents in this position find their own way of marking the occasion. It can be helpful to try and make contact with other parents in a similar position as a way of offering and receiving support. If you are unable to buy your child a present or show them that you are thinking about them, you may wish to consider buying a different kind of gift. For example, you can name a star, adopt an animal, plant a tree or make a donation to a charity on their behalf.

Look after yourself
Christmas for separated families can be an emotionally difficult time. Not only for children, but for parents as well. This may be your first Christmas without your children or without your husband, wife or partner. Take some time to think about how you might feel and then think about ways of coping. If old traditions are too painful, create some new ones. If you won’t have chance to see your children, write a letter and raise a toast to them. If you are going to be on your own, with or without your children, think about whether you might spend some time with friends or relatives.

So hopefully some of this advice will be useful. No matter what, have as nice a day as possible. Get stuck into the big box of Quality Street (it’s Christmas so chocolate is allowed as soon as you open your eyes!), have some fizz (did I mention that?!) followed by a wee snooze before the last ever Downtown Abbey! And from all of us at MTM Family Law, Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2016.

Please note our offices are closed from 12 noon on Thursday 24th December 2015, until 9am on Tuesday 5th January 2016. If you require urgent family law advice during this time then please email us on general@mtmfamilylaw.co.uk.