Can my partner demand custody of our children?

Posted: Sunday September 6 2015

By: Abbie Coleman

Can my partner demand custody of our children?

By Consilia Legal

Mental health awareness is becoming increasingly prevalent across social media and through work carried out by tireless charitable campaigners. Last week was national suicide prevention week. This increasing awareness is to be welcomed. It is no surprise that major life events such as divorce/separation and moving house are two of the most stressful events in a person’s life cycle.  If you are facing a separation or are in the throes of divorce it may be you are also faced with a potential house move or certainly issues as to your housing situation/needs and concerns such as can my partner demand custody of our children?

In our experience commons fears you may be facing are as follows:-

My ex- partner can make me sell the house straight away

This isn’t true. Either you or your ex partner can make an application to Court to seek that the family home can be sold. However this is a rather lengthy process and the Court will consider all issues, the prime consideration being the welfare (including housing needs) of any minor dependent children.  If you are worried as to your ex partner’s behaviour and any threats have been made then you need to speak to a family law specialist as to what interim measures you can put in place.

My ex –partner can demand custody of our children

There is no such thing as “custody” or “residence” of children any longer. The law changed last year and the focus is upon children spending time with each parent providing it is safe and consistent for them to do so. There is a new Court process called the Child Arrangements Programme. The focus is very much on utilising family mediation, if you are unable to resolve matters direct with your ex-partner to find a workable practical solution for your children.

If however you have worries as to the safety of your children then the Court process may be the most appropriate forum. It is important that you discuss legal rights and obligations with a family specialist if you are all unsure.

I may be left without any money

If you are married then both parties have claims in law for income, capital and pension provision. A family specialist can provide you with detailed advice based upon your situation as to what a likely financial settlement may look like.  It is important that you seek specialist advice to ensure you are able to meet your needs and the needs of your children going forward.

Maintenance for children is governed by the Child Maintenance Service. There is an on-line calculator which you can look at to determine the appropriate level of maintenance.

It is important to note however that there are various options. If you use the Child Maintenance Service to collect payments then there is a charge. It may be therefore that it is preferable to reach agreement on a direct pay basis.  The link to the website above provides some helpful information

I am frightened they will take me to Court and it will cost me thousands

Most people are able one way or another to resolve issues outside of the Court process. The law changed recently and prior to making Court application for financial and/or children related matters then save for exceptional circumstances you must attend a mediation information and assessment meeting with an accredited family law mediator. The mediator will give you options as to how you may resolve matters. Set out below is further information on the family mediation process.

It is vitally important when going through a difficult time in life that you have access to the proper support and assistance to help you through the dark tunnel and out the other side. Friends and colleagues may be telling you horror stories of what happened to them when they went through a life crisis, how expensive it was and how long it took through the Court system. It important to be aware that you have a number of options open to you. Divorce and separation do not have to involve expensive lengthy Court battles.

The process of family mediation is a far more cost effective and time efficient manner to assist you and your ex-partner to resolve issues concerning financial matters and/or issues as to where your children should live and spend time with you and your other party.  Where children are involved through the process of mediation you and your ex- partner can be assisted to work upon establishing a dialogue as parents even though the couple dialogue is likely to have broken down.

There is also the process of collaborative law which has similarities to mediation in approach and is more led lawyer led as a process.

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