Child Law

Separated Parents and their Children

If you are going through a separation this will be a challenging time for your whole family. During this time your children need support, love and contact with both of their parents and other significant people such as grandparents. A degree of certainty for the future is also important. As parents you will need to plan for what is to happen to your child. The most important thing for you to consider when doing this is what is best for your child.

The things you need to think about

  • How you will share your parental responsibilities
  • How you are going to consult about important decisions
  • Who the child will live with
  • What times the child will spend with each parent
  • What time the child will spend with other people such as grandparents, aunts and uncles
  • How the child will communicate with each parent or other people e.g. by phone, email or letters
  • What arrangements need to be made for special days such as birthdays and holidays
  • What process you will use to change these arrangements or resolve any disagreements.
  • Any other issues about the welfare or development of the child.

Things to Consider

You need to consider what is in the best interests of your child. This means that when making decisions their needs must come first. Children have the right to know both of their parents. They have the right to be protected from harm. They have the right to have their views taken into account. Their relationship with both of their parents and other people significant to them should also be taken into account.

The basic position in law is that it is in the best interests of the child for the parents to share parental responsibilities. In Scots law this means that both parents have full parental responsibilities which they can exercise independently of each other. This does not mean that the child should spend equal time with each parent. Parental responsibilities means that both parents should have an equal role in making decisions about major long term issues that effect their children such as schooling and health care. If you are entering into an agreement about your children we would call this shared residence. It does not mean that the child’s time is split equally between you but that you share the major decisions in relation to the child.

Equal Time

In some situations it is possible for the child to spend equal time with each parent. You also need to work out whether this is reasonably practicable. What does this mean? Is it practical to make this type of arrangement for your child based on your circumstances. Think about the following:-

  • How far apart you live from each other
  • How you will be able to take your child to and from school
  • What hours of work you do and how this would fit with your clients best interests
  • How well you and the other parent communicate with each other
  • How you can best resolve any problems that come up with this arrangement and how you would deal with matters at short notice
  • Think about it from the child’s point of view and what impact this will have on the child. If the child spending equal time with you is not considered appropriate you should look at an arrangement that allows both parents to spend “substantial” and “significant” time with the child.

What is Substantial and Significant time

This refers to a child spending time with both parents on a mix of school days, weekends and holidays. It means that both parents should be involved in the child’s daily routine as well as sharing in special events like birthdays and other important family events like weddings and christenings.

If you are experiencing difficulties reaching an agreement family counselling and mediation services are available. These can be obtained from Relationships Scotland (Orkney) on 01856 877750. If you cannot come to an agreement as to how to provide for your parenting arrangements on your separation the matter can be referred to the Sheriff Court at Kirkwall. This is an expensive and time consuming procedure. It does not encourage satisfactory relationships between parents on their separation and may result in the Sheriff making a decision about your parenting arrangements that are not suitable for you. Orders of the court are also difficult to change and are can therefore cause problems as your child grows and develops and your child’s needs and your family circumstances change. Legal advice can be obtained from our offices.

Tel: 01856 870787

Tel: 01595 690115

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